Bemidji State's sterling season comes to an end with 5-1 loss to Michigan in NCAA Tourney
Bemidji State's dream of a return visit to the Frozen Four was shattered Saturday, as Michigan topped the Beavers 5-1 in the opening round of the NCAA Midwest Regional in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The old adage, "it's not that you play a team, it's when you play them" was the story for the Beavers who were making their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Michigan entered the tournament as one the hottest teams in the country and proved it Saturday.
"Michigan is the hottest team in the country, and maybe the best team, right now," said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. "That was a great hockey team we played tonight."
Michigan led 1-0 after one period and 2-0 after the second. The Beavers came back to make it 2-1 with a power play goal near the midway point of the third.
But after that it was all Michigan.
The Wolverines responded two minutes after the Beavers scored and then added a shorthander at 16:03 to go ahead 4-1. Michigan concluded the scoring with an empty net goal at 18:02.
The final score was a bit misleading as the Beavers skated with Michigan on even terms for the first 50 minutes. The difference was Michigan was able to finish on its chances while the Beavers were not.
"That was a hard fought game," said Michigan coach Red Berenson. "I don't think it was a 5-1 game at all. Bemidji State was always in it. They scored that goal in the third to make it 2-1 and it felt like the momentum was going to change. Then we were able to respond quickly and the ice kind of tilted our way."
Michigan took a 1-0 lead in the evenly played first period. The Wolverines scored seconds after the Beavers had killed their only penalty of the period.
Steve Kampfer corralled the puck at the blue line and slid it across the point to Chad Langlais, who ripped a slap shot. The shot was tipped in front by Luke Glendening at 6:14 past a screened BSU goalie Dan Bakala.
Michigan carried the early part of the period, holding a 6-0 shot advantage at the 8:00 mark. The Wolverines got into penalty trouble the rest of the period, as the Beavers had four straight power plays.
Bemidji State, however, was unable to get the tying goal. The BSU offense did start warming up a bit and generated five strong scoring chances. Darcy Findlay had a great chance with a shot in close and got a rebound chance as well. Emil Bilberg also had a rebound opportunity on the play. Freshman Jordan George was alone down low, staring at an empty net with about four minutes remaining. The pass looked on the mark, but the puck jumped his stick and George couldn't connect.
Both goalies were more than solid. Bakala had no chance on the Michigan goal and came up with a huge save by quickly sliding across the crease to rob Glendening at 12:15. Michigan's Shawn Hunwick also stood tall with the Wolverines on the penalty kill for eight minutes.
Shots were even in the first period with Michigan holding a 9-8 edge.
"We really needed to get a power play goal there in the first period," Serratore said. "You'd like to connect and get momentum going. It was tough."
Michigan went ahead 2-0 in the second period with a late goal. Michigan had a 4 on 3 power play for 23 seconds and worked the puck around well, but didn't score. Seconds after the teams went 4 on 4 Chris Brown found Lou Caporusso on a back door play alone just off the side of the crease. Caporusso ripped a wrist shot shortside past Bakala with 38 seconds left in the period.
"(That goal) was huge for us," Berenson said. "It was maybe a little lucky, but giving up those last second goals is tough."
Caporusso said Brown was able to find a seam and get him the puck. "It was kind of a scramble play," he said. "He got the puck to me and I just shot it as hard as I could."
The goalies once again stole the show in the second. Bakala made a huge save sliding across the crease again, robbing Glendening who had the puck on his stick at point blank range at 6:30 of the period.
It was Hunwick's turn three minutes later. George got the puck alone in front off a long pass from Matt Read. Hunwick robbed the BSU freshman with a major save at 9:30.
The Beavers had another great chance to score in the second. Ben Kinne took a pass from Shea Walters in stride in the high slot and went in alone on Hunwick. Kinne's shot, however, sailed over the cross bar with 4:30 left in the period, tipped at the very last second by a Michigan defender.
The Beavers got back into the game at 10:24 of the third as Ian Lowe connected on a power play goal. Matt Read found Lowe at the far face off circles and Lowe ripped a patented one-timer past Hunwick.
Less then a minute before he scored, Lowe rang a rocket slap shot off the pipe, beating Hunwick cleanly.
"We got that goal and it felt like we starting to get some momentum going," Lowe said. "We would have liked to get another one right away, but it didn't happen."
Michigan regained the two goal lead at 12:24 as Carl Hagelin scored on a back hand off a 2 on 1 rush. The scoring play started as the result of a bad defensive change for the Beavers at the Michigan blue line. That sprang Hagelin and Kevin Lynch, with Hagelin ending up with a tap in goal off a nice feed.
The Beavers looked to have a good chance to cut into the lead with about four minutes left, going on the power play.
But it was Michigan who cashed in as Hagelin scored again, this time off a pass from Matt Rust.
Bemidji State pulled Bakala with 3:08 remaining. Brian Lebler scored an empty netter to make the final 5-1.
"I thought we had a lot in the tank (Saturday)," Serratore reported. "But their speed was tremendous. They were one step ahead of us for most of the night. In the third we started to stretch things out a bit, trying to get the puck past their defenders by banking it off the glass. It helped, but they just took advantage of the misplays we made."
Senior captain Chris McKelvie, who played in his last collegiate game, said, "I thought the effort was there, but some of the bounces just didn't go our way. I don't want to be making excuses. When you allow those goals late in the period like we did in the second, it's tough."
Michigan ended with a 31-27 shot advantage for the game. Hunwick got the win, making 26 saves in a big time performance. Bakala ended with 26 saves, at least two of them that denied what looked to be sure goals.
"Bemidji State is a good team that's had a good season," Berenson said. "I watched them more in the last week than I have in my lifetime and I've been so impressed by them. We knew we had to put pressure on them or they could take over the game."
Serratore said he was impressed with the Beavers' game Saturday and entire season.
"I am so proud of the guys," he said. "They came to work every day. They have a tremendous work ethic and are all tremendous people. It's pretty easy to coach when you have players like that."