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Bemidji State men's hockey: Orban's big night gives BSU win, split at Niagara

Little known freshman forward Brance Orban made the most of a rare opportunity Saturday and scored a pair of goals, including the game winner, as the Bemidji State men's hockey team posted a 4-3 win for a hard earned split at Niagara University.

Freshman first liner Jordan George was a healthy scratch for the game, according to BSU head coach Tom Serratore. Orban was inserted into George's spot on the Beavers top line with Matt Read and Ian Lowe.

It was a bit of a surprise move in that Orban had been used very little this season, seeing action in only three games as a fourth liner.

But the freshman responded in a big way, scoring his first two collegiate goals ever in a game the Beavers (15-5-2, 9-1-0 CHA) needed badly to get back on track, following a 6-4 loss the night before.

"(Orban) is a smart player," Serratore reported. "When you put a smart player with a couple of guys like Read and Lowe, well, you saw what can happen. He has good hockey sense and a lot of 'want to' right now."

BSU defender Dan MacIntyre put the Beavers on the board first, scoring his first collegiate goal as well. MacIntyre connected at the 16:30 mark of the first with assists going to Tyler Lehrke and Chris McKelvie.

BSU struck again immediately. Orban made it 2-0 just 12 seconds later with an assist to Read.

Niagara (6-13-2, 2-3-1 CHA) got back in the game in the waning moments of the period as Paul Zanette took advantage of a BSU turnover to skate in alone and score short-handed with 1:17 remaining. It was the first shorthanded goal allowed by the Beavers this season.

As opposed to Friday night's game which saw Niagara score six unanswered goals after the Beavers took a 2-0 first period lead, BSU quickly scored in the second to regain the two goal lead. Read took a pass from Orban at the blue line, skated in and snapped off a rocket wrist shot from the far face off dot past Niagara goalie Chris Noonan at 1:52.

The Beaver's penalty kill unit maintained the two goal lead near the mid-way point of the period in what turned out to be a very key part of the game. BSU killed a Niagara 5 on 3 advantage for 1:14 as BSU goalie Dan Bakala made a pair of big saves.

There wasn't a whistle for the entirety of the two man advantage with the same three Beaver players on the ice the entire time.

Niagara did come through with a power play goal late in the second.

Giancarlo Iuorio connected a backhand through traffic at 18:02 to make it a 3-2 game.

Once again the Beavers responded in a big way in at the beginning of the final period. Orban scored again, this one on a blast from the near face off dot just 1:18 into the period, as BSU went ahead 4-2.

Bemidji State maintained the two goal lead for the next 12 minutes. But Niagara wasn't through as Ryan Olidis scored at 13:51 to make it 4-3.

The Beavers then stood tough down the stretch to preserve the win, including killing off another penalty with about five minutes remaining.

The Beavers ended with a 31-29 shots on goal advantage. Bakala improved his record to 13-3-2 on the year, making 26 saves. Noonan took the loss, making 27 stops.

The Beavers may have lost the special teams battle on the night as Niagara scored both the short hander and a power play goal. But BSU won the war, killing the 5 on 3 and the penalty at the end of the game.

"We didn't help ourselves on those two Niagara goals," Serratore said, "but we won the game. (Dwyer Arena) is a very tough place to play and it was a tough game."

The Beavers return to action this weekend, facing Minnesota-Duluth in a home and home series with Friday's game at the John Glas Fieldhouse.

"I told the guys that, in my eyes, UMD is playing better than any team in the country right now," Serratore said. "They are high octane and really have it rolling. We'll definitely have our hands full."