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Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Bemidji State men's hockey team ends John Glas Fieldhouse era with emotional 6-1 win over Niagara

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The lights are out, but the party is far from over.

The Bemidji State men's hockey team closed an important chapter in Beaver hockey history Saturday in impressive fashion, topping visiting Niagara 6-1 in the last college hockey game ever to be played at the John Glas Fieldhouse.

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As if channeling energy from the capacity crowd, the Beavers jumped to a huge 3-0 lead in the first period. Bemidji State then put on a dominating display in the second, building the lead to 5-0. The teams traded goals in the third, with the Beavers capping the historic night with the final goal scored at the Glas.

BSU head coach Tom Serratore is fond of saying that in college hockey, the first team to four wins. That being the case, this one was over with 11:42 left in the second period.

"It was a great victory," Serratore said, "fitting for the last game to be placed at The Glas. We got the three-goal cushion right away in the first period, which was great since we played so flat the night before. Getting those early goals was huge, and they were all nice goals. That set the tone for the rest of the game."

The first period saw the Beavers scoring twice in the span of 1:20 and adding another with less than two minutes left in the period.

Darcy Findlay got the Beavers on the board first, connecting on his first of two on the night into an open net off a fine pass from Emil Bilberg at 5:56. Bilberg fought for the puck at the top of the near circle and spotted Findlay, who was going hard to the net. A perfect pass resulted in a chip in for Findlay.

The next one brought the partisan crowd to its feet. Matt Read won a faceoff at the far circle back to Ian Lowe, who ripped an absolute rocket one-timer past NU goalie Andrew Hare at 7:16.

The Beavers then concluded the scoring with 1:46 remaining and the teams playing 4 on 4. Sophomore defender Brad Hunt rifled a blast from the point that went over the goal. The puck hit the glass and rebounded out front. Ben Kinne was there to gain control and deposit the puck to the back of the net.

Niagara held a 10-9 shot advantage in the period.

The second period was as dominant a 20 minutes of hockey as the Beavers have played all year. Bemidji State put 24 shots on net and built a 5-0 lead.

A few inches here and a few there, the Beaver advantage could have been four or five higher as several tips at the goal were narrowly missed.

"We fed off our success in the first for the second period," Serratore said. "We had good puck pressure and then got into a flow offensively. That's the kind of hockey we need to play."

Findlay got his second of the night to make it 4-0, this one coming at 8:18. Aaron McLeod advanced the puck to the offensive zone and found Findlay with a cross-ice pass at the far faceoff dot. Findlay ripped a shot past Hare.

"I felt good to be able to contribute something on such a historic night for the program," Findlay said. "Coach Peters told us after the game Friday 'you're standing on the shoulders of the ones who played before you.' It was a great feeling to have so many alumni be a part of the game (tonight)."

Just 1:44 later the Beavers made it 5-0 on another goal that had the crowd leaping out of the seats in appreciation. Freshman defender Brady Wacker cleared the puck high in the air and Read batted it down, in stride, at the red line. He then motored across the blue line and ripped a shot from the high slot past a Niagara defender and Hare into the goal.

Niagara was limited to five shots on goal in the period.

The Beavers concentrated on clock management and puck control in the third. The teams ended up trading goals, the last scored, fittingly, by the Beavers.

Niagara broke the shutout at 7:31 as C.J. Chartrain scored on a wrist shot from the top of the far circles past a screened BSU goalie Dan Bakala.

But the Beavers answered at 10:59 as Ryan Cramer scored on a backhand that deflected off a Purple Eagle defender into the net.

"(Kinne) put pressure on the puck carrier and the kid turned it over to me," Cramer said. "The forehand wasn't there so I just concentrated on getting a back hander towards the net. It wasn't the prettiest goal, but it's one I will remember forever."

Serratore said the emphasis for the third period was puck control and preserving the shutout. "I thought we let up a bit in the third," he said. "But that can happen when you're playing the scoreboard. Sometimes things can get away from you a bit.

"But, in the end, things could not have gone better for us in such an historic game."

The Beavers ended with a 39-33 shot advantage. Bakala was solid once again, making 32 saves in improving his record to 17-5-2 on the year.

Notes

- Pregame ceremonies included a tribute to the man himself, John S. Glas. Nearly 30 of his family members, including wife Alfreda and sons Bob and Boysen, along with several grandchildren, were in attendance.

- Also before the game, captains representing all 13 of the Bemidji State national championships teams were introduced to the crowd. Included were two players with their numbers retired - Bryan Grand and Jim McElmury.

- Legendary BSU head coach R.H. "Bob" Peters dropped the ceremonial first puck.

- After cleaning the ice for the final time, rink manager/Zamboni driver Vance Balstad was given a standing ovation. The crowd wouldn't stop applauding and Balstad came back for a curtain call.

- Following the game a passing of the torch ceremony was held. John Emkovick, a Beaver captain in 1948-49 and John Whiting, a captain in 1949-1950, passed the torch to Ric Anderson, captain of the first team at the John Glas Fieldhouse in 1967-68. Anderson then passed the torch to current BSU captain Chris McKelvie.

- Peters provided the closing comments at the conclusion of the ceremonies. In the end, he told the former and current players "I hope your memories of flashing blade and flying puck in the John Glas Fieldhouse will never fade ..."

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