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McLeod's late goal lifts Bemidji St. to 1-1 tie with Denver

Bemidji State’s Mitch Cain takes a shot on Denver goaltender Juho Olkinuora during the second period of Friday’s WCHA game at the Sanford Center. BSU Photo Services

BEMIDJI – It seems the Bemidji State men’s hockey team enjoys giving its fans their money’s worth at the Sanford Center.

After a late goal by Aaron McLeod tied the game with 9:30 left in regulation Friday night, the Beavers forced overtime against nationally-ranked Denver. The teams skated to a scoreless overtime and the Beavers got away with a 1-1 tie – and one point – against the WCHA-leading Pioneers in front of 2,827 fans at the Sanford Center.

It was the fourth overtime game in the last five games at home for BSU.

“It was good to get one point against them,” said BSU goaltender Andrew Walsh, who stopped 32 shots to help the Beavers preserve the tie. “Obviously, we’d rather have had two points, and if we got another couple of bounces to go our way, it could have gone that way. But our guys played well, dominated the 5-on-5 and our forwards played awesomely tonight.”

The Beavers (4-8-3, 3-7-3 WCHA) were trailing 1-0 in the third period when McLeod tied the score at 1-1.

BSU captain Ben Kinne made a play for the puck on the wall and found defenseman Sam Rendle on the point. Rendle took a shot and McLeod was there for the redirect past Denver goaltender Juho Olkinuora at the 11:30 mark. The puck nicked off McLeod and a Denver defenseman, and officials had to review the goal before officially giving McLeod credit.

“It was definitely a greasy goal,” McLeod said of his fortunate bounce. “But it got us the tie. And it started with some great shifts from the rest of the guys.”

The Pioneers, who are winless in their last seven games, appeared to be on the fast track to breaking that streak earlier in the game.

The Beavers took three penalties in the first period, and Denver (9-5-3, 7-3-3 WCHA) took advantage.

The third one hurt the most.

With 4:22 left in the frame, freshman forward Cory Ward hit Denver winger Chris Knowlton behind the BSU net.

Officials didn’t like the hit, and whistled Ward for a checking from behind penalty – a five-minute major. Ward skated to the box, but a minute later skated to the locker room after the refs huddled and determined it was also a game misconduct penalty.

The Bemidji crowd booed lustily. Boos became jeers when McLeod was hit from behind in nearly the exact same spot just a minute later and no penalty was called.

Knowlton turned those jeers into silence when Knowlton scored off his own rebound to put Denver up 1-0. Sam Windle had blocked Knowlton’s initial attempt, but Knowlton got it back and flipped it over the shoulder of Walsh at the 17:40 mark.

Ward’s penalty carried over for 38 seconds into the second frame.

BSU killed it with no further damage, but no sooner had Markus Gerbrandt stepped out of the penalty box than another penalty was called on the Beavers. Matt Carlson was whistled for another five-minute major and game misconduct penalty for checking from behind just 53 seconds into the second frame. Gerbrandt skated back to the penalty box to serve the penalty once again.

This time, the Beavers killed the penalty with great goaltending – including a fantastic glove save by Walsh – and some blocked shots.

In all, the Beavers had 36 total minutes of penalty time. They spend 14 of the first 30 minutes of the game on the penalty kill. The fact that BSU only gave up a single goal was what head coach Tom Serratore liked to see.

“It was kind of a bizarre game with those penalties,” Serratore said. “But to give up just one power play goal in 14 minutes of penalty time, I’ll take it any day of the week.

“We needed that penalty kill. It was good for the confidence. Denver has a great power play and they really throw the puck around.”

The Pioneers weren’t called for their second penalty until Dakota Mermis lost the puck in the Denver zone. He had to hook Kinne to prevent a Beavers’ 2-on-1 and went to the box at the 12:04 mark.

However, BSU couldn’t do anything with that penalty, and the Beavers spend most of the penalty time defending their own net.

In the third period, BSU took control. Trailing 22-13 in shots after two frames, the Beavers generated more offense in the third.

It started with a pair of offsetting slashing penalties in the third period – on BSU’s Jordan George and DU’s Quentin Shore – gave both teams a chance to score playing 4-on-4 hockey nearly five minutes into the frame.

BSU evened the score later with McLeod’s goal.

Both teams had their chances to win the game in the third period and overtime but the goaltending saved the day. Olkinuora finished the game with 20 saves.

The two teams return to the Sanford Center at 7:07 p.m. tonight for the series finale.

BSU wouldn’t mind extending Denver’s winless streak to eight before the holiday break.

“We played really well down low, and hopefully we can carry it over to tomorrow night,” McLeod said. “If we can do that we can be successful. If we can get three out of four points out of these guys it will be a good Christmas present for us.”

Denver 1 0 0 0 – 1

Bemidji State 0 0 1 0 – 1

First Period – 1, DU, Knowlton (Mayfield, Doremus), 17:40, PP. Penalties – DU, Q.Shore (Hooking), 3:07; BSU, Cain (Checking From Behind), 8:34; BSU, Areshenko (Holding), 12:08; BSU, Ward (Checking From Behind), 15:38; BSU, Ward (Game Misconduct), 15:38.

Second Period – No Scoring. Penalties – BSU, Carlson (Checking from Behind), 0:53; BSU, Carlson (Game Misconduct), 0:53; DU, Mermis (Hooking), 14:04.

Third Period – 2, BSU, McLeod (Rendle, Kinne), 11:30. Penalties – BSU, George (Slashing), 4:24; DU, Q.Shore (Slashing), 4:24.

Overtime – No Scoring. Penalties – None.

Goalies – DU, Olkinuora (21-20); BSU, Walsh (33-32).

Shots On Goal – DU (10-12-11-1-33); BSU (6-7-8-0-21)

Penalties-Minutes – DU, 3-6; BSU 7-36.

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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