GRAND FORKS -- The Bemidji State men's hockey team was looking to make a major statement to the college hockey world in its game Friday against Miami, the nation's top ranked team.
A goal by senior captain Chris McKelvie propelled the Beavers to a 3-2 win over Miami in the opening game of the Subway Holiday Classic at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks Friday afternoon.
The Beavers built a 2-0 lead after two periods, only to have Miami come roaring with a pair of goals in the opening nine minutes of the third period to tie the game at 2-2.
But the Beavers responded in a major way with McKelvie's game winner off a fine play initiated by Matt Read with 3:19 remaining. Miami pulled goaltender Cody Reichard with 1:17 left for the extra attacker, but the BSU defense didn't allow Miami to get close.
It was a major win for the Beavers who improved to 11-1-1 on the season. It marked the first time the Beavers defeated a team ranked number one nationally in the program's Division I era.
"It was a great game and a monumental win for us," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "It was a playoff-like atmosphere; there was no easy ice out there. Every goal scored was earned - it was tough, old-fashioned hockey."
The Beavers took a 1-0 lead in the first off a strange goal. BSU forward Emil Bilberg came out of the penalty box and raced for the puck in the BSU offensive zone. His line mate Aaron McLeod got to the puck in the corner first and funneled it to the front of the net.
Beaver sophomore Darcy Findlay was there to deflect the puck, which blooped over the shoulder of Reichard into the net at the 8:37 mark.
The goal was one of only two shots on goal for the Beavers in the period. The BSU did generate some offense, but a handful of deflections just missed.
Miami (9-2-5 overall) ended with seven shots in the opening period. Curtis McKenzie had the best chance at the 13:38 mark, but Dan Bakala made the short side save.
The Beavers increased the lead to 2-0 at 6:02 of the second period. McKelvie picked up a loose puck near center ice, put on the jets to go wide past the Miami defense and got off a strong shot. Reichard pushed the save high into the slot and BSU senior Tyler Lehrke was right here, connecting into a wide open net.
While BSU won the period on the scoreboard Miami controlled play for long stretches and had several great opportunities to score. On each Bakala was there to make the stop.
Miami had at least three grade A chances in the last two minutes of the second. Bakala made good stops on Jarod Palmer from point blank range, as well as Trent Vogelhuber and Reilly Smith.
Still the Beavers held a 2-0 lead going into the final period - a huge factor. The Beavers were 8-0-0 this year entering the third period with a lead.
'I thought the ice was a little tilted there in the last five or six minutes of the second period," Serratore reported. "But (Bakala) was there for us when we needed him. He did what good goalies do and made the big saves when we needed them."
The third period was more free flowing with both teams moving the puck well. Miami came back to 2-1 at 5:24 of the third on the power play as Carter Camper executed a perfect give and go with Curtis McKenzie to get a hard shot past Bakala.
Carter turned the trick again about four minutes later to tie the score. On this one Carter zipped a shot across the crease that deflected off Bakala's stick into the net at 9:21.
"I had some success earlier in the game stopping those passes across the crease," Bakala said. "I tried to do the same thing but it took a weird bounce off my stick and deflcted into the net."
That led to the game winning goal for the Beavers. Read took control of the puck near the red line and went hard to the net. He went wide around a Miami defender and got off a strong backhand shot.
Reichard made the save, but McKelvie, who was crashing the net hard from the off wing, won the race to the rebound and zipped a shot to the back of the net.
"I saw both Miami defensemen were backed in front of the net," Read said. "I also noticed we had a 3 on 2 rush going so I went wide and tried to get off a strong shot. McKelvie was there to make a great shot on the rebound."
Serratore said the goal was, once again, a case of the Beavers best player making a big play at a crucial point in the game. "It was nice to have the puck in (Read's) hands at that point," Serratore reported. "McKelvie sensed what Read was going to do, saw a lane to the net, won a race to the loose puck and converted."
McKelvie was excited after the win. "I thought we executed our game plan well," he said. "This was a very exhilarating win for us. It'll be interesting to see how we respond against another high quality team (Saturday)."
Miami ended with a 22-15 shots on goal advantage, although the Beavers won the third period with a 7-5 advantage. Bakala got the win in net for the Beavers, making 20 saves to improve his record to 8-1-1 on the year. Reichard took his first loss of the season to go to 8-1-2
"I think they did a great job taking care of the front of the net," said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi. "They made sure we didn't get many second chances. We expected a tough, close game and it was. In the end they got an opportunity and converted. That was it."
Read said the Beavers talked a lot about the fact Miami was the top ranked team in the country in the week leading up to the game.
"We all said we needed to play our best game of the year and show the rest of the country we are for real," he said. "We also talked how this game could give us a bit of redemption for the loss we had against them in the Frozen Four. I thought we played really well."
Serratore stressed he wanted to keep the game and the team's fast start in perspective.
"There was no gloating in our locker room after the game," Serratore reported. "We all get beaten up in life at times and we've been on the other side plenty.
"No doubt the guys are feeling pretty good at this point. But they also know our good start to the season has been due to a lot of hard work. We need to keep working hard and competing hard - we all realize that."