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Bemidji St. men's hockey completes sweep of Air Force with convincing win

Bemidji State's Chris Peluso gathers the puck and skates away from Air Force's Matt Fairchild during the second period of Saturday night's game at John Glas Fieldhouse. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Last season, the Bemidji State men's hockey team traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo. the second weekend of the season and were completely dominated.

Well, the Beavers returned the favor this year.

The Beavers completed the sweep of Air Force Saturday, turning in a dominating performance to win 7-3. The Beavers jumped out to a 4-1 first period lead and never looked back in recording the fine win.

It was a night of firsts for the Beavers with three freshmen scoring their first collegiate goals. Aaron McLeod, Brady Wacker and Jordan George all scored.

"Overall it was a good weekend," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "I think we had some carry over from last year with our veterans, and the young guys are figuring things out a little quicker than normal. As a group I think they've done job of self-coaching, since we only had a few days of actual practice."

It was a wild and crazy first period as Bemidji State took the 4-1 lead. Air Force came out with a lot of energy and actually carried the play. It didn't take long for BSU goalie Dan Bakala to get into the action as he made a big kick save on a hard shot from Tim Kirby just 30 seconds into the game.

At the 4:13 mark, however, things took a decided change for the Beavers. BSU scored first as junior forward Ryan Cramer took a pass in the middle from Ben Kinne and scored on a hard shot from the hash marks.

It didn't take Air Force long to respond. Just 21 seconds later Jacques Lamoureux beat Bakala with a hard shot along the ice from point blank range.

But it was all Bemidji State from there on out.

Immediately after a BSU power play had expired, freshman defender Wacker connected for his first collegiate goal. The goal was the result of a fine passing play that had Tyler Lehrke hitting Wacker in the slot with a quick pass. Wacker let it fly and connected.

The Beavers scored again at 11:18, this time on the power play. The result of another nice passing play, this time it was sophomore defender Brad Hunt who scored from above the circles on hard low shot.

The Beavers then added an improbable short handed goal just over one minute later. With BSU on the penalty kill, Matt Read took advantage of a Falcon goaltender Andrew Volkening misplay to score.

Read was on the forecheck and at the door step as Volkening lost control of the puck and turned it over. Read was there to slip it in the net.

"I think that fourth goal killed them," Serratore said. "It was turning point in the game. To go down by three on a fluky goal like that, well, it was tough for those guys to come back from something like that."

The second period was pretty wacky as well. Things didn't start well for the Beavers when Shea Walters was whistled for a questionable checking from behind major and game misconduct.

Regardless of the call, the Beavers went on the penalty kill for five minutes.

Air Force responded immediately as Jeff Hajner picked up a Beavers defensive misplay in the slot and scored to make it 4-2.

But the Beavers penalty kill took over from there and didn't give Air Force a sniff the rest of the way. In fact, just 13 seconds after the major elapsed, the Beavers were called for another penalty, this one a minor for holding.

That meant the Beavers were on the penalty kill for nearly seven straight minutes. It didn't matter as Air Force couldn't find the net again because of the aggressive BSU special teams play.

Right after the penalty expired, Read brought the crowd to its feet. He chased down a loose puck along the boards near the blue line. Read then cut to the net, side-stepped a Falcon defender and then rifled a laser shot past Volkening. It was a highlight reel-type goal.

The Beavers then connected on a power play goal, their second of the night. On this one, Hunt unleashed a hard shot from the high slot and freshman Jordan George was right there to rap in the rebound for his first collegiate goal at 12:18.

That was end of the night for Volkening. One of the premier goalies in the nation last season, the Beavers chased Volkening who ended up playing 32:13, allowing six goals on 17 BSU shots.

Despite being on the penalty kill for the extended period of time, the Beavers held an 11-6 shot advantage in the period.

This one, for all intents and purposes, was over entering the third period.

The Beavers were short-handed for the first 1:39 of the period and Air Force made the pay. Just 1:30 into the final period, Eric Artman scored from in close.

McLeod then concluded the scoring at 13:58 as he picked up a loose puck at the blue line, went to the goal and scored off the backhand on a nice skill move.

The Beavers ended with a 28-24 shot advantage. Air Force had 12 shots in the first 14 minutes of the game and only 12 more the rest of the way. Bakala got his second straight win in net for the Beavers, stopping 21 of 24 Falcon shots.

The Beavers will now be idle next weekend and hit the road for a nonconference series against Northern Michigan Oct. 16 and 17.