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BSU goalie Andrew Walsh had a great game Saturday as he stopped 32 shots to help the Beavers defeat Ferris State 2-1. BSU Photo Services

Men's hockey: BSU hangs on to stop Ferris St. and earn two big points

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BEMIDJI — The BSU men’s hockey team got its wish Saturday night — it scored first.

Radoslav Illo lit the lamp just less than two minutes into BSU’s game against No. 4 Ferris State, and Markus Gerbrandt added another five minutes later to give BSU a two-goal cushion.

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But as often seems to be the case for the Beavers, they turned holding onto that lead into an adventure.

The Beavers gritted their teeth through a final two minutes that saw a penalty on defenseman James Hansen, then a 5-on-4 extra attacker situation after a penalty on Ferris’ Garrett Thompson, and held on for a 2-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association victory at the Sanford Center. Andrew Walsh stopped 32 of 33 shots for Bemidji State, who won at home for the first time since Nov. 23.

"It was huge," Gerbrandt said of the upset win over the Bulldogs. "We've been working for that for quite a while now and to beat the No. 1 team (in the conference) it’s a big confidence booster going into the last four games of the season.

"We were struggling offensively (last week against Minnesota State) and to go in against a team like them and get a win it’s a huge confidence-booster."

The Beavers (9-16-7, 9-11-4 WCHA) were clinging to a 2-1 lead entering the third period but the Bulldogs (21-7-3, 16-4-2 WCHA) had dominated the second, holding BSU without a shot until a late five-minute major penalty on FSU’s Dom Panetta with four minutes to go.

"The second period we just weren't with it," BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. "We were turning pucks over a lot. It was a difficult period for us, but Walshie was there. It was a snowstorm for Ferris for a while there but Walshie stood tall."

The Bulldogs outshot BSU 12-2 in the second frame but Walsh stopped all of them.

"Walsh played very very well," Serratore said. "In the second period especially. He saved our bacon in the second period, and you need that. Your goalie has to be your best player, and he was our best player tonight and our best player in the second when we really needed him."

In the third period the Beavers had plenty of chances to take a more comfortable two-goal lead, including a pair of shots by Phil Marinaccio in front of Ferris goaltender CJ Motte that never found their way in.

Midway through the final frame the BSU fans at the Sanford Center though the Beavers had scored when Nate Arentz got a feed from Illo and looked like he beat Motte on a 2-on-1 situation.

However, referees had whistled the play dead seconds before the goal for offside. Fans booed the call and the teams kept playing.

Things got interesting late in the third when BSU’s Hansen was whistled for a slash and went to the penalty box with under two minutes to go.

That could have made for a long 1:57 for the Beavers but Ferris’ Garrett Thompson gave them a gift when, 30 seconds later, he whacked Walsh in the head while trying to screen him in front of the net and went to the penalty box for a high stick.

Ferris decided to pull Motte and skate with an extra attacker for the final 1:25 but managed just four shots — only one of which Walsh needed to save.

Still, it was a nerve-racking final 90 seconds for the Beavers, who iced the puck twice and went without a change until the Bulldogs went offsides with 9.9 seconds left.

"That was probably one of the most intense final two minutes of a game this year so far," Gerbrandt said. "But we had faith in the penalty kill guys out there to get it done and they did so, that was the most important part."

The Bulldogs went all in on the final faceoff on the blue line, but BSU’s Cory Ward won the faceoff and wasted enough time that the Bulldogs only had about two seconds for a final chance on goal.

"He’s a stud in the faceoff circle," Gerbrandt said of Ward's big win as the final seconds ticked off. "He was 7-0 in second period for us and good in the third. He’s been doing that the last couple weekends. He’s a big backbone in the faceoff circle, that’s for sure."

After the faceoff Walsh poked the puck away from Cory Kane as the seconds ticked off and then raised his hands as BSU held on for the win.

Ferris outshot BSU 33-17, and 9-3 in the final period.

It was a change from Friday night, when Ferris won 4-1 and scored first.

This time around it was Illo, who scored the lone BSU goal in Friday night’s 4-1 Ferris State victory, kick started BSU’s night with a strange goal that needed a review.

Defenseman Ruslan Pedan sent in a shot from near the point early in the period and a scrum formed around Motte. Illo somehow found a way to shove it under the Bulldog goalie’s pads.

Referees reviewed the goal to make sure Illo didn’t kick it in but the call stood and BSU grabbed the early lead.

The Beavers took a 2-0 lead on Gerbrandt’s near-one-timer from Brendan Harms but Ferris got one back 15 minutes into the game, when Cory Kane sent a laser past Walsh on an odd-man rush.

Motte made 15 saves and took the loss for Ferris.

With the win the Beavers moved to seventh place with 22 points. Serrartore called Saturday's game a "must-win," especially considering how close the margin for error is in the WCHA. After Saturday's games the third-place team (Alaska-Anchorage) was just six points ahead of the ninth-place team (Lake Superior State).

"No question it was a must-win game. The guys knew that," Serratore said. "There was a lot on the line tight there. We needed a way to make the WCHA more interesting. And I think the WCHA is a lot more interesting right now than it was two hours ago."

BSU has a bye week next week but returns to the Sanford Center for its final home games of the season Feb. 28 and March 1 against Alabama-Huntsville.

FSU 1 0 0 — 1

BSU 2 0 0 — 2

First Period — 1, BSU, Illo (Pedan, Mattson), 1:57; 2, BSU, Gerbrandt (Harms), 6:56; 3, FSU, Kane (Mayhew, DeMartino), 15:01. Penalties — FSU, Dorer (Interference), 2:49.

Second Period — No Scoring. Penalties — FSU, Binkley (Interference), 1:04; FSU, Panetta (Checking From Behind), 16:01; FSU, Panetta (Game Misconduct), 16:01.

Third Period — No Scoring. Penalties — BSU, Pedan (Tripping), 4:57; FSU, Thompson (Hooking), 8:46; BSU, Hansen (Slashing), 18:03; FSU, Thompson (High Sticking), 18:35.

Shots On Goal — FSU, 12-12-9—33; BSU, 12-2-3—17; Goalies (Shots-Saves) — FSU, Motte (17-15); BSU, Walsh (33-32). Penalties-Minutes — FSU, 7-25; BSU,2-4. Power Plays-Opportunities — FSU, 0-for-2; BSU, 0-for-5.

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on Bemidji State but also covering area high schools. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
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