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Bemidji State men's hockey: Beavers dismantle Minnesota-Duluth, win opening game of big series

Bemidji State goalie Dan Bakala stretches out for a glove save on Minnesota-Duluth's Jack Connolly during the second period of Friday's game at John Glas Fieldhouse. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Win the special teams battle ... check. Get strong goaltending ... check. Take care of the puck and limit turnovers ... check. Play at a high intensity level ... check.

The No. 14 Bemidji State men's hockey team took care of its pregame checklist and as a result dismantled the No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 4-1 Friday night at the John Glas Fieldhouse.

The Beavers took a 1-0 first period lead, held on in the second and exploded for three unanswered goals in the third to put the game away. UMD scored late on a power play to make it a 4-1 final.

UMD came into the game the hottest team in the country, winning four straight and six of seven. The surge had lifted the Bulldogs to the top five in both the national polls and the Pairwise rankings.

The Beavers chased UMD goalie Kenny Reiter, who had won four straight games. Reiter was lifted for Brady Hjelle late in the third period after allowing the fourth BSU goal.

Junior forward Ian Lowe had two goals and an assist as his season long fine play continued. BSU also got goals from sophomore defender Brad Hunt and freshman Brance Orban, who saw action in his second straight game.

"That was one of our better wins of the year," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "I thought our guys responded well to a very big challenge. It was a big game with a lot of hype; it's nice to win a game like that."

The Bemidji State had a dominating first period in all areas, ending with a 1-0 lead. It could have been at least two more as the Beavers dominated the scoring chances in the period.

BSU also kept the vaunted UMD power play off the board in the period.

The penalty kill was a point of emphasis for the Beavers this week during practice, as UMD entered the game with a sizzling power play, converting at 24.7 percent clip. The Beavers limited the Bulldogs to only one harmless shot on goal over two minor penalties in the first.

BSU got the only goal of the period, connecting at 11:04. Matt Read won the face off back to defenseman Brad Hunt who passed the puck low to freshman Jordan George. Skating behind the net, George found Ian Lowe crashing to the net and hit him with a perfect pass. Lowe connected for his 10th goal of the season on the bang-bang play past Reiter.

The Beavers held an 11-7 shots on goal advantage for the period with three of the Bulldogs shots coming in the last 45 seconds of play.

The score remained the same after a scoreless second. But no scoring didn't equal a lack of action.

UMD came out with much more jump and a harder forecheck. But the Beavers matched them step for step.

The BSU special teams stole the show in the opening moments, with the Beavers being whistled for a hooking penalty just 40 seconds into the period. Read had the best scoring chance with the BSU on the penalty kill, going in alone on Reiter and just missing with a wicked wrist shot.

Seconds later Read was whistled for a kneeing penalty and UMD had a 5 on 3 advantage for 44 seconds. The Beavers killed the two man advantage and the following 5 on 4, limiting UMD to just two shots.

BSU goalie Dan Bakala made two fine saves on good UMD chances in the period, the best on a point blank shot by Travis Oleksuk with about five minutes left in the period.

It was the key third period that blew the game open for the Beavers. This time it was the Beavers who had an extended 5 on 3 advantage and they wasted little time in making it a 2-0 game. Hunt got a pass from Lowe in the high slot and rifled a slap shot that deflected off a UMD defender into the net at the 3:48 mark.

"That 5 on 3 couldn't have come at a better time," said Serratore. "Getting that goal was very big - you could feel the attitude of the guys on the bench change lighten up. We killed the UMD 5 on 3 earlier and then were fortunate to score on ours - those were two big momentum changers."

The Beavers made it 3-0 about six minutes later as Lowe got his second of the night. He ripped a shot from between circles that whistled high and wide of the goal. He kept after the puck, regained possession in the corner and ripped a shot toward the net. The puck deflected off Reiter into the net.

"I knew the goalie was coming out when I took the first shot," Lowe said. "I knew he would be coming back and if I could get a shot on net, it had a chance of deflecting off him." That's exactly what happened.

Orban scored at 11:59 to make it 4-0, blasting a slap shot from the near circles past Reiter. It was Orban's third goal in the last two games. He played on the second line Friday, filling in for an injured Shea Walters.

UMD got on the board with its only goal as Jack Connolly scored on the power play at 15:34. That was it on the night offensively for the Bulldogs.

"We knew they would come out strong in the first period - they always do," said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. "Our guys know they have to be ready from the first drop of the puck. We were fortunate to be down only 1-0 after the first. We played better in the second and generated some opportunities, but couldn't capitalize.

"You can't play 20 minutes of good hockey and expect to win. But give BSU credit - they have a good team, capitalized on their opportunities and we didn't."

UMD held a 30-26 shots on goal advantage for the game. Bakala got the win in a fine performance, making 29 saves. "Bottom line - if you want to get to where you want to go, your goalie has to be your best player," Serratore reported. "Bakala played very well when we need him to."

The two teams will conclude the home and home series tonight at the DECC in Duluth. Game time is 7:07 p.m.

"We were fortunate -- taking advantage of our opportunities and earned the win," Serratore said. "Now we have to back it up (tonight) and that's going to be another big challenge."