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HOCKEY: Bemidji State settles for tie with Western Michigan after losing 2-0 lead

BSU’s Radoslav Illo puts a shot on goal Saturday night as Ben Warda defends for Western Michigan. BSU Photo Services

BEMIDJI – Bemidji State had another close call with a top-10 opponent.

After the Beavers took a 2-0 lead into the third period, Western Michigan showed why it's the No. 7 team in the country.

The Broncos scored two goals in a three minute span in the third period Saturday night at the Sanford Center, forcing overtime and an eventual 2-2 tie in the final game of the nonconference series.

Although WMU (12-5-3) scored twice in the third period and outshot BSU 35-22 in the game, the Beavers (5-11-4) were glad to settle for the tie after getting rocked by the Broncos 6-0 in Friday night’s series opener.

BSU goaltender Andrew Walsh made 33 saves and kept the Beavers in the game as Western put the pressure on late. Kenney Morrison had scored on the power play early in the third period, and Dane Walters put a second puck past Walsh at the 7:43 mark of the third period, but Walsh – who gave up all six goals Friday – played lockdown defense in the final minutes and in overtime.

“It feels really good,” said BSU winger Danny Mattson. “Last night was rough but we really bounced back well tonight.”

The sophomore from Minneapolis helped spark BSU, scoring on the power play in the second period and assisting on Cory Ward’s tally later in the frame to help give the Beavers their 2-0 cushion.

BSU head coach Tom Serratore thought the two goalscorers – Mattson and freshman Ward – were two of BSU’s best players on the ice in Friday’s rout and the same held true tonight.

“Cory Ward and Danny Mattson were our two best players last night, so it was nice to see both of them carry that over into tonight.”

Ward’s improbable goal put BSU up 2-0 late in the second.

With Western on the attack, Walsh poked a loose puck out to Mattson, who saw Ward streaking up the middle of the ice with Ben Kinne. Western’s Ben Warda, the only defender between the two, fell into Ward, knocking him off the puck but bringing himself to the ice in the process.

Instead of redirecting the puck – likely what Warda intended – his move had the opposite effect. He and the puck slid into Western goaltender Frank Slubowski. The puck crossed the goal line with Warda and Slubowski both on their behinds.

The play was reviewed, but it didn’t take long – officials ruled a goal and BSU went up 2-0.

Earlier in the period, the Beavers finally converted on a power play opportunity after failing to score on some prime chances in the first.

Luke Witowski went to the penalty box for cross checking at the 6:55 mark of the second frame, and a minute later the Beavers capitalized. They clogged the area in front of Slubowski, to shove the puck in past him. Mattson finally poked it through the pads of the keeper on BSU’s third try from point-blank range, scoring the game’s first goal at 8:08.

“We’ve been working on our power play a lot,” Mattson said. “We were kind of struggling with it the last three games but it was nice to get a kind of greasy goal tonight.”

It was a good break for the Beavers, who had wasted a five-minute power play that spanned the first and second periods.

Colton Hargrove’s thunderous hit on Walsh – who had strayed far from the net to play a puck – merited him a five-minute major penalty with just under a minute and a half to play in the first frame.

The hit likely would have been legal had the WMU freshman winger not left his feet. Instead, he went to the penalty box for five minutes and gave the Beavers a prime opportunity to gain some early momentum.

BSU managed some decent shots with seconds left in the frame that Slubowski turned away. But despite having 3:44 of penalty time to work with to start the second period, Western held the Beavers to just one shot after the intermission.

Serratore said Western is one of the top teams in the nation for just that reason – their tough defense.

“They have so much talent on that team, especially that defensive core,” Serratore said. “If there’s a better defensive core in the country, I want to see it.

“You can’t have a bad shift against them. They’re so tough to play against, especially back-to-back. I thought our guys did really well.”

The Beavers are off next weekend before returning to action Dec. 18-19 against Michigan Tech for a WCHA series.

Western Michigan 0 0 2 – 2

Bemidji State 0 2 0 0 – 2

First Period – No Scoring. Penalties – BSU, Ward (Elbowing), 13:48, WMU, Elias (Interference), 16:01; WMU, Hargrove (Charging), 18:37.

Second Period – 1, BSU, Mattson (Illo, Orban), 8:08, PP; 2, BSU, Ward (Mattson, Walsh), 10:40. Penalties – WMU, Witowski (Cross Checking), 6:55; BSU, Boehm (Cross Checking), 14:54.

Third Period – 3, WMU, Morrison (Brown, Berschbach), 5:37, PP; 4, WMU, Walters (Berschbach, Balisy), 7:43. Penalties – BSU, Orban (Tripping), 5:08; WMU, Brown (Interference), 12:39.

Overtime – No Scoring. Penalties – None.

Goalies – WMU, Slubowski (22-20); BSU, Walsh (35-33).

Shots On Goal – WMU (8-13-11-3-35); BSU (6-6-8-2-22).

Penalties-Minutes – WMU 4-11; BSU, 3-6.

Power Plays – BSU, 1-for-3; WMU 1-for-4.

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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