Gophers too much for Bemidji State
BEMIDJI – Bemidji State couldn’t keep up with Minnesota for two straight nights.
The Beavers, who lost a late 3-2 lead in Friday night’s series opener, fell behind early in Saturday’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association series finale and couldn’t pull themselves out of that hole.
Four different players scored for the Golden Gophers and they held off the Beavers to win 5-1 in front of 4,415 fans at the Sanford Center.
That crowd was the largest ever to watch a hockey game in Bemidji.
Matt Prapavessis scored the lone goal for Bemidji State, which ends the regular season with a 6-19-8 overall record and a 5-15-4 league slate.
The Gophers finish the regular season 24-7-5 overall and 16-7-5 in the league. With the win they had a chance to finish in a tie for first place in the league standings, pending the result of Saturday night’s St. Cloud State/Wisconsin result which was not available at presstime.
With Saturday night’s result the Beavers will take on Minnesota in Minneapolis in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, which begin next week.
“It was a snowstorm today,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore told the Beaver Radio Network after the game. “I told the guys they better bring their heart and their head to the rink on Monday” when preparations begin for the playoff series at Minnesota.
Saturday night, the Gophers once again got on the board early. Kyle Rau hit the right post and the puck ricocheted out. Ben Marshall took a shot that went wide before Erik Huala got the second rebound and put it past Dugas for the score.
Radoslav Illo nearly tied the game with a breakaway with 8:12 to go in the first, but was stoned by Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox, who knocked it down and covered before Illo could get a rebound shot.
Minnesota took a commanding lead – and seemed to suck all the life out of the Beavers and the BSU fans at the Sanford Center – with a Nick Bjugstad goal at 14:42. He knocked home a pass from Christian Isakson on a 2-on-1 and the Gophers went into the dressing room with the lead.
Minnesota outshot Bemidji State 10-6 in the first frame.
Prapavessis got the Beavers back into the game in a hurry, scoring on a screaming slapshot from the top of the left circle just 1:55 into the middle period to cut Minnesota’s lead to 2-1. Prapavessis’ goal was just his second of the season – he also scored in Friday night’s game – and was assisted by Jordan George and Ben Kinne.
“He’s just feeling more comfortable, and boy he’s been good,” Serratore said of Prapavessis. “He was good last night and again he was really good tonight.”
Minnesota reclaimed its two-goal lead late in the second period. The Gophers had about four chances in front of the net and Dugas couldn’t get a clear. The puck was kicked around and back to Zach Budish, who sent a wrist shot towards Dugas. The senior from L’Assomption, Quebec, made the glove save on Buish and got the cover.
But Budish got another chance following the faceoff, backhanding a loose puck into the open net at the 14:26 mark.
In the third period the Gophers dominated, not letting BSU get much offense going. The Gophers mostly played keep-away, but Christian Isakson scored a buzzer-beating goal with no time left that was reviewed and ruled a goal.
“We didn’t have the mojo,” Serratore said. “We weren’t very good in the neutral zone offensively. Defensively I thought we were erratic away from the puck. They turned it up a notch and we didn’t respond.”
Minnesota outshot BSU 40-24; Dugas finished the game with 35 saves. Wilcox made 23 for the Gophers.
NOTES: Former Bemidji State player and current Air Force head coach Frank Serratore – BSU head coach Tom’s older brother – dropped the ceremonial first puck before Saturday night’s game. Frank’s son, Tom, is a junior winger for the Gophers; Tom the player and Kinne took the ceremonial opening faceoff.
Minnesota 2 1 2 – 5
Bemidji State 0 1 0 – 1
First Period – 1, UM, Huala (Marshall, Rau), 4:04; 2, UM, Bjugstad (Isakson, Rau), 14:42. Penalties – None.
Second Period – 3, BSU, Prapavessis (George, Kinne), 1:55; 4, UM, Budish (Huala, Parenteau), 14:26. Penalties – UM, Serratore (High Sticking), 6:37; BSU, Kinne (Tripping), 16:01; UM, Helgeson (Interference), 16:01.
Third Period – 5, UM, Parenteau (Huala, Warning), 14:03; 6, UM, Isakson (Bjugstad, Alt), 19:59. Penalties – None.
Shots: Minnesota 10-23-7-40; BSU 6-10-8-24
Saves: Wilcox (Minn) 23-24; Dugas (BSU) 30-35
Penalties/minutes: Minnesota 2/4; BSU 1/2