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Beaver hockey team rallies to sweep Anchorage; will open playoffs at North Dakota

Brance Orban scored the tying and go-ahead goals late Saturday night to lead Bemidji State past Alaska-Anchorage 5-4 in a wild Western Collegiate Hockey Association game on the Seawolves' ice.

The gutty victory vaults the Beavers past Wisconsin into ninth place in the final WCHA standings. It also means a much shorter road trip next weekend when BSU opens the WCHA playoffs. Bemidji will travel to Grand Forks to play North Dakota in a best-of-three series that begins at 7:37 p.m. Friday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

A loss or tie Saturday night would have kept the Beavers in 10th place in the 12-team league and assured a trip to Denver.

"It's nice that our fans can go watch us play," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "It will be a heckuva challenge for us."

Bemidji State rebounded from a four-game losing streak to sweep the last-place Seawolves and finish the regular season with an 11-15-3 conference record and a 17-16-3 overall mark.

"We just played with a lot of desperation," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "The guys delivered. It was a big team win."

Orban's goals both came from rocket shots.

"He's so good coming down the wing." Serratore said. "He's got great location on his shot. We see that all the time in practice."

Shea Walters also had two goals for BSU.

The Beavers fell behind 1-0 when Anchorage's Jordan Kwas put his team's first shot on goal past Dan Bakala 4:22 into the first period. But Walters tied it three minutes later on assists from Radoslav Illo and Brady Wacker. Sam Mueller put the Seawolves ahead 2-1 less than a minute later and that was how the first period ended.

Anchorage got its biggest lead of the game 37 seconds into the second period when Jade Portwood beat Bakala to make it 3-1. Walters answered again for the Beavers with a power-play goal at the 4:39 mark of the second, and defenseman Matt Prapavessis scored his first goal of the season halfway through the second to tie it at 3-3.

Corbin Karl gave the home team a 4-3 lead, but a roughing penalty and subsequent 10-minute major by Alaska's Brad Gorham proved costly as Orban connected on the power play to tie the score at 4-4 with 4:21 left in the second.

Orban's second goal 2:56 into the third put the Beavers ahead for the first time at 5-4. His hard shot from the right wall beat Anchorage goalie Dusan Sidor. Bakala got a rare goaltender assist on the play.

The Seawolves pulled Sidor with 2:09 left and had a few good scoring chances, but Bakala came up big. Orban took a tripping penalty with 45 seconds left and Anchorage had a 6-on-4 skater advantage, but couldn't mount a threat.

Other first-round matchups next week will have Alaska-Anchorage at Minnesota. Minnesota State Mankato at Minnesota-Duluth, Wisconsin at Denver Michigan Tech at Colorado College and Nebraska-Omaha at St. Cloud State.