BEMIDJI – Bemidji State gave itself an early Christmas present against nationally-ranked Denver this weekend.
Brance Orban and David Boehm’s three-point nights – a goal and two assists each – along with two tallies from Jeff Jubinville and 23 saves by Andrew Walsh helped the Beavers rout the WCHA-leading, and No. 10-ranked, Pioneers 5-1 Saturday night at the Sanford Center. Denver, who led the WCHA by a point at the start of play Saturday night, have now gone eight games without a win and fall to 9-6-3 overall and 7-4-3 in the WCHA.
And after the Beavers tied the Pioneers 1-1 on Friday, taking three of four points was nearly the best of all possible outcomes this weekend.
"Absolutley," said Boehm, a senior from Naples, Fla. "We knew we needed these points to kinda get out of the bottom of the league. Especially before Christmas break, it’s a pretty good Christmas present."
"It's definitely a good way to go Christmas break," Orban added. "We really wanted this weekend bad and we’ll take three out of four points."
With Saturday's win - and a losses by Colorado College and Michigan Tech - the Beavers pulled into a tie for eighth place with the Tigers going into the holiday break.
It was also the 200th career win for BSU head coach Tom Serratore.
"Our guys are going into the break on a high note," Serratore said. "That’s all we can ask. We hope they can carry this over into the second half, but it was just a nice Christmas present."
The Beavers (5-8-3, 4-7-3 WCHA) took an early lead on Jubinville’s goal just five minutes, 20 seconds into the game. Jubinville was wide open in front of Pioneer goaltender Adam Murray. David Boehm had the puck near the left-side glass and slid it over the Jubinville, who did a little spin move and redirected it past Murray. Murray allowed five goals and made 25 saves.
It being “Teddy Bear toss” night at the Sanford Center, fans enthusiastically tossed their stuffed toys on the ice.
From there, crowd energized, the Beavers dominated most of the rest of the period. They outshot the Pioneers 11-7 in the first frame and scored again at the 15:19 mark, taking an advantage of a DU penalty.
Dakota Mermis was whistled for hooking at 14:41 and less than a minute later Orban put BSU up 2-0, battering home a rebound that landed right in front of Murray. Danny Mattson and Radoslav Illo were credited with assists.
Boehm said a stronger forecheck has helped BSU in its past three games - a win against Minnesota Duluth and the tie and win this weekend against Denver.
"We’re definitely making good strides," Boehm said. "We switched up our forecheck this week, and tonight in we got after them pretty good, made their D cough up a few pucks. That really helped us tonight, and this whole weekend."
In the second period, things got chippy – but that’s when the Beavers broke the game wide open.
Grant Arnold was sent to the Denver penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Mattson scored the second Beaver power play goal with help from Illo and Brady Wacker, making it 3-0 BSU at the 6:46 mark.
The Beavers made it 4-0 seven minutes later, on a goal by Boehm from Orban at 13:43.
That’s when Denver’s frustrations seemingly boiled over.
Some pushing and shoving before the goal led to BSU goalie Walsh skating out to the blue line to celebrate with the rest of the BSU squad.
Denver took exception, and for the next couple shifts there were more extracurricular activities on both sides – but nothing was called until BSU’s Cory Ward went to the box for tripping at 14:55. Matt Carlson joined him there for slashing at 15:50.
But BSU was only on the 5-on-3 for 7 seconds, as Nick Shore was called for hooking at 15:57.
Neither team took advantage of the myriad penalties, but Jubinville scored his second goal of the night shortly after both teams returned to full strength to make it 5-0 at 18:11. Orban and Boehm assisted on the goal.
"We don’t like to take part in the chippy stuff," Boehm said of the rough second period. "We just sort of played our game and capitalized on it. I think we’re mature enough not to take those penalties."
Nick Shore finally put Denver on the board with 11 seconds to play in the period, sneaking behind Walsh for a back-door tap-in with an assist from Joey LaLeggia.
In the third period, Denver outshot BSU 8-4 but the Beavers were content to sit back and allow nothing. BSU took three penalties but killed them successfully; in general the fisticuffs that plagued the second period were nonexistent in the final frame.
BSU went 2-for-4 on the power play - the first time they've scored twice on the man-advantage since a 5-4 overtime loss to Michigan Tech Nov. 16.
"We’ve got a lot of confidence right now, a lot of good mojo as a unit," Orban said of the power play unit, which is 10-for-49 overall (20 percent) but 3-for-11 (27 percent) in the last three games. "We’re clicking right now. Tonight I think we just outworked their penalty kill and good things happened."
The Beavers return to the ice Dec. 30 in the Dartmouth Tournament, where they’ll take on UMass in the semifinals.
But BSU hopes this momentum can help carry over through the nearly two-week-long break. For Serratore, it's the best game his team has played all season.
"You look a couple weeks ago, we had a tough outing against Mankato and we were pretty low," he said. "Then we lose again last Friday night in Duluth, but we responded on Saturday and kept it going this weekend.
"We brought that momentum from Duluth into the Sanford Center and it was nice getting those points. It was nice having some success at home. It’s been tough for us at home a little bit, we’ve been fighting it a little bit. But our guys played with an abundance of maturity."
Denver 0 1 0 – 1
Bemidji State 2 3 0 – 5
First Period – 1, BSU, Jubinville (Boehm), 5:20; 2, BSU, Orban (Mattson, Illo), 15:19, PP. Penalties – DU, Mermis (Hooking), 14:41.
Second Period – 3, BSU, Mattson (Illo, Wacker), 6:46, PP; 4, BSU, Boehm (Orban), 14:43; 5, BSU, Jubinville (Orban, Boehm), 18:11; 6, DU, N.Shore (LaLeggia), 19:49. Penalties – BSU, Areshenko (Interference), 2:29, DU, Arnold (Unsportsmanlike Conduct), 6:06; DU, Phillips (High Sticking), 7:52; BSU, Ward (Tripping), 14:55; BSU, Carlson (Slashing), 15:50; DU, N.Shore (Hooking), 15:57.
Third Period – No Scoring. Penalties – BSU, Carlson (Boarding), 4:32; BSU, Ward (Roughing), 10:58; BSU, Wacker (Interference), 15:10.
Goalies – DU, Murray (30-25); BSU, Walsh (25-24).
Shots On Goal – DU (7-10-8-25); BSU (11-15-4-30)
Penalties-Minutes – DU, 4-8; BSU 6-12.
Power Plays – DU, 0-for-5; BSU, 2-for-4.