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Special teams help Bemidji St. snap winless streak

Bemidji State’s Phil Brewer tries to get the puck past the outstretched glove of Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Alex Fons during the second period of Friday’s game at the Sanford Center. Jack Hittinger | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – The postgame smiles, much like Bemidji State’s power play chances Friday night, were electric.

The Beavers hadn’t won since Dec. 15. Their power play coming into the series opener against Minnesota Duluth was struggling – just 16 percent.

Consider all that a memory.

The Beavers scored four times on the power play and Andrew Walsh turned in a 38-save gem as BSU defeated Minnesota-Duluth 4-2 in front of 3,013 fans at the Sanford Center. The Beavers were 0-9-3 since beating Denver 5-1 in December, hadn’t won in 2013 and hadn’t won on a Friday night.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Friday’s game was also the first time since defeating Denver when the Beavers scored more than once on the power play.

“I think it’s been a long time coming,” BSU senior forward Brance Orban, whose two power play tallies in the third period proved to be the difference, said of the win. “It’s a big weight off our shoulders.”

Although BSU’s power play hummed, some big penalty killing also went a long way.

With the score tied at 2-2 after two periods, the Beavers (6-17-6, 5-13-5 WCHA) entered the third frame needing to kill a 1 minute, 29 second penalty on Jake Areshenko.

The Bulldogs (10-16-3, 8-12-3 WCHA) didn’t get much time on that power play. UMD’s Austin Farley was called for a 5-minute checking from behind penalty just 38 seconds into the period and got sent off to boot. Areshenko exited the box soon after, and a minute into the BSU power play, Orban got a feed from Aaron McLeod and fired it past UMD goaltender Alex Fons to give BSU a 3-2 lead.

The third period, which featured eight total penalties and 38 minutes of penalty time, got even stranger when BSU’s Brady Wacker was also whistled for a 5-minute checking-from-behind penalty at 5:51 and sent off.

UMD’s Andy Welinski – who scored a goal earlier in the game – and BSU’s Sam Rendle were both called for two-minute infractions just seconds apart from one another. That gave the Bulldogs a 4-on-3 for about three minutes, and a 5-on-3 for nearly two minutes, but the Beavers killed the penalties with some good clears and great saves from Andrew Walsh.

“Our special teams delivered,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “Walshie played really well. He was our best penalty killer on that extended power play for Duluth.”

“It’s been a while,” Walsh said of getting the win – his first since the Denver game. “I mean, we hadn’t won in a while and I haven’t consistently stayed in the net for a while. I just wanted to go out there tonight and play well, but I knew if I wanted to play well I had to have fun. So I went out, had a great game, had a lot of fun out there and the rest took care of itself.”

Walsh stopped 38 of 40 Bulldogs shots; the Beavers had just 27 shots on goal but made them count on the man-advantage. BSU was 4-for-6 on the power play – including Orban’s final tally.

A Bulldogs penalty just seconds after the Beavers killed the 5-on-3 set up the BSU power play. Danny Mattson was able to thread the needle with a pass between Fons and another UMD defender and Orban banged it home to make it 4-2 at 12:30.

UMD scored first and controlled the first six minutes of play; Welinski beat Walsh at 5:39 of the first period. At that point the Bulldogs were outshooting BSU 9-1. But the Beavers played better and only allowed two more UMD shots the rest of the period.

In the second frame, Ben Kinne scored the first of BSU’s four power play tallies with a redirect from Cory Ward and Matt Prapavessis at the 4:15 mark.

Cal Decowski put the Bulldogs ahead at 7:13, but Radoslav Illo pulled the Beavers even again with another goal just eight seconds into a BSU power play.

“Coach says all the time that it’s going to come down to goaltending and special teams,” Orban said. “I think we delivered tonight. We hope we can keep that going for the rest of the season.”

With the win and Michigan Tech’s 4-2 loss to Michigan Tech Friday night, the Beavers pulled within a point of the Huskies for 10th place in the conference standings. Tech, at 6-13-4 in the league, has 16 points while BSU has 15.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, lost their sixth-straight game. They’ve been outscored 13-0 in the third period in that span.

The teams return to the ice today at 7:07 p.m. for the series finale.

Minnesota Duluth 1 1 0 – 2

Bemidji State 0 2 2 – 4

First Period – 1, UMD, Welinski (Danberg, Olson), 5:39. Penalties – UMD, Welinski (Interference), 7:28; BSU, George (Roughing), 8:53; UMD, Krause (Roughing), 8:53.

Second Period – 2, BSU, Kinne (Ward, Prapavessis), 4:15, PP; 3, UMD, Decowski (DeLisle, Krause), 7:13; 4, BSU, Illo (George, Prapavessis), 16:06, PP. Penalties – UMD, DeLisle (Charging the Goalie), 3:31; UMD, Decowski (Holding the Stick), 15:58; BSU, Areshenko (Holding the Stick), 19:29.

Third Period – 5, BSU, Orban 1 (McLeod), 2:51, PP; 6, BSU, Orban 2 (Mattson, Rendle), 12:30, PP. Penalties – UMD, Farley (Checking from Behind), 0:38; UMD, Farley, (Game Misconduct), 0:38; BSU, Wacker (Checking from Behind), 5:51; BSU, Wacker (Game Misconduct), 5:51; UMD, Welinski (Cross Checking), 6:41; BSU, Rendle (Holding), 7:00; UMD, Flaherty (Holding), 11:04; BSU, Areshenko (Holding), 14:33.

Shots On Goal – UMD (11-19-10-40); BSU, (8-9-10-27)

Goalies – UMD, Fons (27-23); BSU, Walsh (40-38).

Penalties-Minutes – UMD, 8-27; BSU, 6-23.

Power Plays – UMD – 0-for-4; BSU, 4-for-6.

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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