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Bemidji State men's hockey: Beavers upset by Niagara in CHA Tournament semifinal

The Bemidji State men's hockey team is hoping the Pairwise prognosticators are right.

If the Beavers are to advance to the NCAA Tournament, it will now have to be through an at-large bid.

Bemidji State was shocked Friday night in upstate New York, falling to Niagara at Dwyer Arena 5-4 in the semifinal of the last ever College Hockey America Tournament.

BSU head coach Tom Serratore is fond of saying come playoff time, the games usually come down to special teams play and goaltending. That was the case Friday, as the Beavers gave up both a power play goal and one short handed within a three minute span near the end of the second period, while going 0-6 on the power play.

And, in the end, Niagara got the bounces that counted.

Niagara's Egor Mironov got the game winner at 11:40 of the third period. It was the kind of play which has benefited the Beavers many times over the years in big games. This time, it haunted them.

Mironov picked up a loose puck behind the BSU net and just funneled it toward the net, where there were no Purple Eagle players waiting. The puck deflected off the skate of BSU senior captain Chris McKelvie into the net, giving Niagara a 5-3 lead.

The Beavers answered 1:05 later, but that was as close as BSU would get as Niagara posted the upset win. BSU had gone 5-1-0 against the Purple Eagles during the regular season.

"From a fan's perspective, it was an exciting game," Serratore reported. "But bottom line is we gave up a power play goal and one shorthanded. They won the special teams battle and that was the difference in the game. Hats off to Niagara; they found a way to win."

It was an odd game where one team would score with the other quickly answering. The teams traded goals within 43 seconds in the first period, and then Niagara went ahead with a goal late. The Beavers came back to tie it at 2-2 in the second, but then Niagara got the special teams goals near the end of the second to go ahead 4-2.

The third period was punch-counter punch with the Beavers coming back to 4-3, only to have Niagara regain the two goal lead 1:15 later. Then the Beavers scored 1:05 after that. But that was it, as the Beavers fell.

"It was an odd game," Serratore said. "We had a lot of bounces go for us this season, but this time it was the other team that got them."

The Beavers played a strong first period, yet came away trailing 2-1.

BSU won their first seven face offs in the game, but the eighth cost them. David Ross won a face off straight back to Tyler Gotto who ripped a quick wrist shot by BSU goalie Dan Bakala at 4:29.

But the Beavers came right back, evening the score just 43 seconds later. Tyler Lehrke got a pass to Chris Peluso at the top of the near circles. Peluso took a step toward the net and rifled a slap shot high stick side past Chris Noonan.

The Beavers then gave up a back breaker, allowing Niagara to score with less than one minute remaining. Chris Moran took a shot with the rebound going to the high slot. Ryan Olidis picked up the puck, made a move and scored past a screened Bakala at 19:27.

The Beavers held a 13-8 shot advantage in the period. Neither team scored on two power play opportunities each in the third.

The Beavers came back in the second to tie the score 2-2. Shea Walters got off a wrist shot with the rebound dropping in front of Niagara goalie Chris Noonan. Ryan Cramer crashed the net and rapped in the rebound at 11:31.

From there it was all Niagara. The Beavers entered the game with the special teams playing extremely, allowing only one power play goal in the last seven games. But Niagara went ahead with a power play goal at 15:46 as Gotto took a shot from the point that deflected off a BSU defender into the net.

The Beavers then looked to have a golden opportunity to get back in the game with just under two minutes remaining as NU's Jeff Hannan was called for tripping. However, it was the Purple Eagles who took advantage.

Paul Zanette lifted the puck out of the BSU offensive zone past a sprawling Matt Read at the point. Bryan Haczyk won the race to the loose puck and went in alone on Bakala, scoring at 18:34.

Suddenly the Beavers were two goals down with only 20 minutes to play.

The Beavers came back at 10:25 of the tjird to make it 4-3 as Walters scored unassisted after picking up a loose puck in the high slot.

Niagara answered to go ahead 5-3 on Mironov's deflection goal at 11:40. The Beavers answered at 12:45 as Brad Hunt was tripped entering the Niagara zone, but stayed with the puck. He got a pass to Cramer who scored on a wrist shot during the delayed penalty.

The Beavers pulled Bakala for the extra attacker with 50 seconds remaining and applied the pressure. But Noonan and the Purple Eagles fought off the rally attempt to win the game.

The Beavers ended with a 36-25 shots on goal advantage for the game.

Bemidji State will now face Robert Morris in the CHA third place game at 3 p.m. today. RMU was defeated by the University of Alabama-Huntsville 1-0 in the other semifinal.

"Now our backs are against the wall," Serratore reported. "To me, it's a must-win game."