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Bemidji State goaltender Mathieu Dugas makes a save during the Beavers’ exhibition game against Manitoba. After sitting out BSU’s first seven games, Dugas has started the last three, going 1-1-1 with a .921 save percentage and 2.53 goals against average. Dugas is expected to start Friday’s series opener against Minnesota State Mankato. Pioneer File Photo

MEN'S HOCKEY: BSU's Dugas the hot hand in goal

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MEN'S HOCKEY: BSU's Dugas the hot hand in goal
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BEMIDJI – Mathieu Dugas only made one appearance in goal last season – a 6-4 loss to Colorado College on Nov. 15, 2011, that he’d likely soon forget.

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The Bemidji State netminder waited just over a year – Nov. 17, 2012, to be exact – to get his next shot.

That one didn’t go as planned, either, as the Beavers fell to Michigan Tech 2-1 in overtime. The Huskies scored the eventual game-winner with 30 seconds to go.

Luckily, Dugas didn’t have to wait another year for his next start. The senior from L’Assomption, Quebec, helped the Beavers pick up three points against Alaska Anchorage last weekend.

It was a key series and a virtual must-win for the Beavers (3-5-2, 2-4-2 WCHA) if they had any hope of staying in the WCHA race.

“It’s good to get some playing time,” Dugas said. “The team’s playing well in front of me, so that makes it easier. It gives me some confidence. Had a tough break against Michigan Tech but I think we bounced back this week and kinda got the demons out of the way. It was a big win on Saturday, especially winning the way we did.”

The Beavers nearly blew a 4-1 lead, but Sam Rendle scored the game-winner with nearly two minutes to go to help the Beavers – and Dugas – get the win.

This weekend, the Beavers travel to Mankato for another key series against Minnesota State. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:37 p.m. Friday and 7:07 p.m. Saturday at Verizon Wireless Center. The Mavericks (5-5-2, 3-5-2 WCHA) are riding high after sweeping Wisconsin in Madison.

BSU head coach Tom Serratore said he’s sticking with Dugas in net on Friday.

“Dugie’s going on Friday,” Serratore said. “He has the hot hand, and he’s playing well right now. We’re going to ride him out on Friday for sure.”

Dugas sat on the bench as sophomore Andrew Walsh sizzled in the early going. In the first four games of the season, Walsh stonewalled Lake Superior State and Nebraska Omaha, going 2-1-1 with a .955 save percentage and 1.48 GAA.

But Walsh faltered a bit against Colorado College and Michigan Tech, and in came Dugas.

It’s tough to switch off as a goaltender, but Dugas said both players know the team comes first.

“I think we both know that as long as the team does well, we’re both happy,” he said. “Walsh has been very supportive and I was the same way when he was in net. Obviously we both want to play, but at the end of the day we’re wearing the same jersey and the team comes first.”

PK needs improvement

Both BSU and MSU are tied in the middle of the league standings with six points, so whichever team can earn points in this series will be in good shape. The other team will be scrambling.

Serratore said the Mavs have three skilled lines that can score, which poses an extra threat.

Matt Leitner leads MSU in points with 15, including 12 assists, while Zach Lehrke – brother of former BSU player Tyler Lehrke – had two points against the Badgers last Saturday.

“The strength of their team is they’ve got an abundance of talent up front,” Serratore said. “Last year they played extremely well the last half of the season and it’s carrying over right now. They had their coaching change with Mike Hastings and they’re clicking on all cylinders.”

The Mavericks are especially clicking on the power play, scoring five man-advantage goals in their last three games.

That could be an issue for the Beavers, who have given up eight power play goals on the season – especially late in the game.

Serratore said it’s an issue the Beavers are actively addressing.

“We have to get fewer penalties, there’s no question,” he said. “We almost stubbed our toe on Saturday night with penalties.

“Right now, we’re not where we were at a month ago on the penalty kill. We just aren’t. And we aren’t where we were last year.”

The Beavers’ penalty kill is a pedestrian – by their standards – 32-for-40 (80 percent).

“It’s frustrating,” Dugas said. “Penalty kill is one of our strengths. We really take it to heart when we give up power play goals, me included. We just need to bear down and make sure we don’t miss any clearing attempts.”

Kinne still day-to-day

Beavers forward Ben Kinne sat out both games of the Alaska Anchorage series with an upper-body injury suffered in the Michigan Tech series.

Serratore said Tuesday the BSU captain was still touch-and-go for this weekend.

“He wants to go,” Serratore said. “But there’s some tenderness still. The next couple days will be critical from that standpoint. He’s gotta feel good.”

Kinne has scored two goals and five assists for seven points.

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. 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.
(218) 333-9772
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