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MEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers can’t capitalize, fall 2-1 in North Star Cup semis

Bemidji State’s Nate Arentz (11) and St. Cloud State’s Will Borgen (20) chase down a loose puck during a North Star Cup semi-final game Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 4
Bemidji’s Jay Dickman (6) controls the puck during a North Star Cup semi-final game against St. Cloud State Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 4
Bemidji State’s Leo Fitzgerald (19) skates with the puck during a North Star Cup semi-final game against St. Cloud State Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 4
BSU’s Zach Whitecloud brings the puck down ice during a North Star Cup semi-final game against St. Cloud State Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)4 / 4

ST. PAUL -- The Bemidji State men’s hockey team was never quite out of the game during Friday’s North Star College Cup semifinal against St. Cloud State.

The Beavers outshot the Huskies 27-20 and had more than 50 shot attempts in the game.

Still, BSU’s offense never quite materialized. The Beavers’ scored just once as the Huskies beat BSU 2-1.

“We didn’t convert,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “There was just no easy ice out there. Bottom line is, you’re not going to win many games scoring one.”

Defenseman Zach Whitecloud scored the lone goal for the Beavers (19-10-3), netting his second goal of the season late in the second period to make it 2-1 with 2 minutes, 21 seconds to play in the frame.

Whitecloud, a freshman, was able to convert on an odd-man rush as he joined the play late and skated into the high slot, where he was wide-open. He buried the wrist shot past St. Cloud goalie Jeff Smith. Leo and Myles Fitzgerald recorded assists on the play.

“You have to pick your spots as you jump up,” Whitecloud said of the goal. “At that time they had two guys down low and I was able to hop in the rush. But it’s not too often that you get chances like that in a game. As a D-corps, we really try and pounce on those opportunities. When you get that, you have to capitalize.”

The goal seemed to energize the Beavers, and 30 seconds later junior forward Myles Fitzgerald was able to draw a penalty on St. Cloud State’s Niklas Nevalainen, who tripped Fitzgerald as he skated between the circles.

BSU had 1:50 to work with before the period ended, but save two decent chances as time expired, they were never able to find an opening on Smith, who finished with 26 saves.

The Huskies (12-12-1) ended up holding BSU scoreless on all three of their power play attempts.

“We didn't generate much,” Serratore said. “I thought we had a couple chances on that second one in the second period. We had a couple good looks, but other than that, they won the special teams battle, and that’s the difference in a game like this.”

BSU senior Phillip Marinaccio (9) skates toward the goal during a North Star Cup semi-final game against St. Cloud State Friday.

The Huskies scored on the power play early in the first period, when Jacob Benson capitalized on TJ Roo’s boarding penalty six minutes into the game. St. Cloud went 1-for-4 on the power play.

St. Cloud scored again seven minutes into the second period, going up 2-0 when Blake Winiecky beat BSU goaltender Michael Bitzer (18 saves) after the Beavers couldn’t clear the puck out of their zone.

That shot was just one of two for the Huskies in the middle frame.

“I thought we played a good game tonight,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “Bemidji forces us to play a different system than we’re used to. But we took them out of their transition game.”

The Beavers had 10 shots on net in that second period but didn’t get many quality looks.

“We weren’t getting guys to the net and we really talked about bad angle shots preparing for this week and getting pucks to the net on (SCSU goalie Smith),” Whitecloud said. “I didn’t think we did that as well as we could have. They kept us to the outside a lot. We didn’t have a whole lot of second and third chances.”

In the third period, shots were even but neither team managed to create many memorable chances.

BSU pulled Bitzer with just more than two minutes to play but a late boarding penalty on Brendan Harms hampered the Beavers’ chances. The Huskies nearly scored on the empty net a few times but couldn’t find the back of the net.

“We probably have to drive to the net a little harder,” Serratore said of BSU’s scoring issues. “You want to try and get more pucks to the cage, you want to try and get more second and third chance opportunities, but that’s easier said than done sometimes.”

The Beavers will now play in the third place game at 4 p.m. today, against Minnesota. Minnesota Duluth beat the Gophers 3-2in the other semifinal game later Friday.

With the North Star Cup ending after this weekend, the Beavers are disappointed they weren’t able to play in the championship game for the third straight season.

“There’s big things on the line here, having that cup in your arena permanently,” Whitecloud said. “We took pride in that, and it shoots to the heart to not be able to get that done as a team.”

St. Cloud State 2, Bemidji State 1

SCSU  1  1  0-- 2

BSU    0  1  0-- 1

First Period -- 1, SCSU, Benson (Winiecki, Ahcan), 6:01, PP . Penalties -- BSU, O’Connor (Hooking), 5:12; SCSU, Borgen (Hooking), 8:12.

Second Period -- 2, SCSU, Winiecki (N.Poehling, Eyssimont), 7:16; 3, BSU, Whitecloud (L.Fitzgerald, M.Fitzgerald), 17:35. Penalties -- SCSU, Eyssimont (Interference), 3:45; BSU, Roo (Boarding),13:07; SCSU, Nevalalnen (Tripping), 18:10.

Third Period -- No scoring. Penalties -- BSU, Eichstadt (Holding The Stick), 3:45; BSU, Harms (Boarding), 18:08.

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 http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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