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Bemidji State men's hockey: Beavers move one step closer, advance to Saturday's CHA title game against Robert Morris

Bemidji State goalie Matt Dalton (right) makes a save as Alabama-Huntsville's Joe Federoff (center) crashes the net and Bemidji State defenseman Tyler Jundt (left) defends during the second period of Friday night's College Hockey America Tournament semifinal game at John Glas Fieldhouse. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Bemidji State just wouldn't be denied.

The Beavers (17-15-1, 12-5-1 CHA) advanced to the College Hockey America Tournament final Friday, topping Alabama-Huntsville 4-1 at the John Glas Fieldhouse.

Bemidji State advanced to the tournament final at 7 p.m. today, facing Robert Morris who defeated Niagara 2-1 earlier.

The Beavers took a 2-0 lead early in the second period, but Huntsville wasn't about to cave. The Chargers (5-20-4, 3-11-4 CHA) came back with a second period goal of their own at 5:51 to make it a game.

The Beavers responded with a goal from Brandon Marino at 2:22 of the third, regaining the two goal lead. Bemidji State then iced it with an empty-netter with 44 seconds remaining to clinch the win.

"Alabama-Huntsville would bend, but not break," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "We've had a very difficult time with them this year. I wasn't breathing easy until we scored that open net goal."

Bemidji State jumped out to a 1-0 first period on a major skill move from the team's top line. Defender Chris Peluso hit Matt Francis at the Chargers blue line with a pass. Francis beat a defender and then spotted Matt Read flying the off wing. Francis hit Read with a perfect cross ice pass and Read, while lunging at the puck at full speed, tipped it past UAH goalie Cam Talbot at 4:40.

The Beavers continued to apply the pressure steadily throughout the period, but the score stood at 1-0 the rest of the way. Read came very close to scoring again, this time at the buzzer as a blistering slap shot from the top of the near circle rang off the cross bar.

The Beavers held a 15-8 shot advantage in the period, with BSU goaltender Matt Dalton looking very solid in net.

The teams split scores in the second as BSU maintained the one goal lead. The Beavers scored first, cashing in a 5 on 3 opportunity just 1:06 into the period. BSU had a man advantage for 1:22 to start the period, due to a carry over penalty. Shea Walters was then tackled on a move to net and BSU had a 5 on 3 for 35 seconds.

It didn't take that long to score.

Defender Brad Hunt ripped a shot from the blue line that Talbot saved. The rebound went to Tyler Scofield who hit Francis in front. Francis flipped the puck past Talbot to make it 2-0 at the 1:06 mark.

The Chargers came back with a goal at 5:51. Chris Fairbanks made a nice play along the near boards and flipped a pass in front. Joe Federoff was there and lifted a shot top shelf to beat Dalton.

There were plenty of additional scoring chances later. The Beavers barely missed on a pair of 2 on 1 chances and Read lifted the puck just inches over the net on a scoring opportunity at 9:15.

Dalton made a nice save on a Charger 2 on 1 at 13:00.

Bemidji State held a narrow 12-11 shot advantage in the period.

With the game hanging in the balance, Marino scored a huge goal early in the third. Controlling the puck along the near boards near the bottom of the circle, Marino turned and rifled a shot on net. It hit Talbot and deflected in to give the Beavers a 3-1 lead at 2:22.

"That was a huge goal for us," Serratore reported. "Marino funneled a shot to the net and Talbot wasn't ready. We've scored a lot of goals like that over the last few years."

Up two goals the BSU coaching staff still wasn't breathing easy.

Dalton came up with the save of the night for the Beavers with about seven minutes left as the Chargers Cody Campbell looked to have a sure goal in attempting to stuff it short side. But Dalton went post to post in a blink and made the big save.

"That was a huge play," Serratore said. "If they would have scored the whole complexion of the game could have changed. That save energized the guys and helped their confidence."

The Beavers concentrated on puck control and clock management the rest of the way. The Chargers never seriously threatened from the there. Read iced it for BSU with the empty netter with an assist going to Dalton with 44 seconds to go.

"Alabama-Huntsville has a quick team that can get up the ice," Serratore reported. "There was a lot of rush offense hockey (Friday). When that happens teams are susceptible to mistakes. We got out first two goals on guys going to the net."

The Beavers ended with a 33-26 shots on goal advantage for the game. Dalton was rock solid in net, getting the win with 25 saves. Talbot took the loss in net for the Chargers, making 29 saves.

Tonight's game

So how do things look for tonight's championship game?

"Robert Morris is the best team in our league right now," Serratore reported. "We know that and are concerned. We dodged a bullet when we beat them last Saturday. Hopefully we will bring our best hockey (tonight).

"It will be a typical championship game at The Glas, like has happened many times in this building over the years."

Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said he hoped the Colonials can duplicate the effort they had against BSU a week ago. " I think we had a good weekend against Bemidji last weekend," he said. "I would like to duplicate the game we had last Friday (a 3-2 win).

"I know the emotion and the crowd at the game will be a challenge. I think we just need to come out and play hard and continue to battle."

Tickets for the game will be available at the door. The ticket window at The Glas will open one hour prior to the start of the game.

Niagara will take on Alabama-Huntsville in the third place game at 2 p.m.

UAH 0 1 0 - 1

BSU 1 1 2 - 4

First Period - 1, BSU, Matt Read (Matt Francis, Chrisd Peluso), 4:40. Penalties --Penalties - Travis Winter, BSU (hooking), 15:34, Brennan barker, UAH (holding), 19:21

Second Period - 2, BSU, Francis (Scofield, Hunt), 1:06 (pp). 3, UAH, Joe Federoff (Chris Fairbanks, Tom Durnie), 4:51. Penalties - Matt Baxter, UAH (tripping), :46, Read, BSU (holding the stick), 10:48

Third Period - 3, BSU, Brandon Marino (Chris McKelvie, Jamie MacQueen), 2:22. 4, Read, (Matt Dalton), 19:16. Penalties - Walters, BSU (hooking), 3:25

Shots - UAH 8-11-7 26, BSU 15-12-6 33

Saves - UAH- Cameron Talbot (32 shots-29 saves)(:32-empty net-goal), BSU-Matt Dalton (26 shots-25 saves)

Power Play - UAH 0 for 3, BSU 1 for 2

Referees - Butler, Foote, assistant referees - Sylvester, Shufelt

A - 1710