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MEN'S HOCKEY: Dufour hat trick sinks BSU, BGSU tops Beavers 4-3 in Game 1 (w/photo gallery)

Bemidji State senior Phillip Marinaccio (9) passes the puck to teammate Charlie O'Connor (22) in front of the net during the first period of a WCHA semifinal game against Bowling Green on Friday at the Sanford Center. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 6
BSU junior Kyle Bauman (14) shoots the puck past Bowling Green’s Mark Friedman on Friday at the Sanford Center during the second period of a WCHA semifinal game on Friday at the Sanford Center. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 6
Bemidji’s T.J. Roo (7) chases down Bowling Green’s Sean Walker (28) Friday during a WCHA semifinal game on Friday at the Sanford Center. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 6
The Beavers celebrate a goal scored by Bemidji State senior Phillip Marinaccio Friday during a during a WCHA semifinal game against Bowling Green at the Sanford Center. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer) 4 / 6
BSU senior Charlie O'Connor (22) and Bowling Green’s Alec Rauhauser chase after a loose puck Friday during a WCHA semifinal game on Friday at the Sanford Center. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer) 5 / 6
Bemidji State’s Brendan Harms (18) prepares to shoot the puck toward the net Friday during a WCHA semifinal game against Bowling Green at the Sanford Center. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer) 6 / 6

BEMIDJI -- Kevin Dufour’s hat trick lifted Bowling Green past Bemidji State in Game 1 of their best-of-three Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff series Friday night at the Sanford Center. Dufour scored his third goal of the game with 2 minutes, 37 seconds to go in the overtime period, lifting the Falcons past the Beavers 4-3.

The Falcons (20-17-2) scored the game-winner after the Beavers (22-15-3) were able to block two shots in the zone. But Adam Smith’s shot went wide of the Beaver net and Dufour, camped to BSU goaltender Michael Bitzer’s left, was right there to redirect the puck into the net after it bounced off the end boards.

“We did a lot of good things,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “I thought we played a really good hockey game, but what are you going to say? It was just one of those back and forth games. Two good teams going at it, and they get the last bounce.”

Game 2 of the best-of-three series will be at 7:07 p.m. tonight. Game 3, if necessary, is set for Saturday at 5:07 p.m.

Bemidji State goalie Michael Bitzer (1) follows the puck with his eyes Friday during a during a WCHA semifinal game.

Although the Beavers outshot the Falcons 48-34 through nearly four periods of hockey, Bowling Green goalie Chris Nell stopped 45 shots to earn the win. Bitzer stopped 34 saves for BSU.

“I thought we did a good job getting pucks to Nell,” BSU senior forward Brendan Harms said. “He’s a great goaltender. We got a couple on him. It came down to the last bounce, obviously. Things went both ways, that’s just the way it is.”

The back-and-forth overtime period surely pounded plenty of pulses throughout the Sanford Center. Although the Falcons outshot the Beavers 11-7 in the extra frame, both teams had chances to tie.

In fact, just before Dufour’s game winner, the Beavers had a nifty 3-on-2 play with Harms, Leo Fitzgerald and Gerry Fitzgerald. Leo got a puck from Gerry and had a point-blank chance on Nell, but the Falcons’ goalie made the save with his glove.

A minute later, BG won it.

Bemidji State’s Myles Fitzgerald (26) dives to reach a puck Friday during a during a WCHA semifinal game against Bowling Green.

“It was a matchup of arguably two of the better goalies in our league, and both of them had pucks that they would have wanted back, but I was proud of Chris,” BG head coach Chris Bergeron said. “He’s a competitive young guy, and he was able to close the door, so good for him.”

It had been an entertaining third period for both teams. BSU led 2-1 but BG scored just 32 seconds into play. Brainerd native Matt Pohlkamp’s goal from the left circle tied the game at 2-2.

However, the Beavers took the lead less than 90 seconds later. Senior defenseman Carter Struthers sent a BG clearing attempt the other direction at the red line. The puck found the stick of Myles Fitzgerald, who quickly dished it to Nate Arentz. He beat Nell five-hole with a shot from the left circle to make it 3-2.

BSU had a few chances to take a two-goal lead later in the third with a pair of power play opportunities midway through the third.

BG defenseman Mark Friedman was called for a charge on BSU’s Kyle Bauman nearly 10 minutes into the second and the Beavers got a few shots on that chance but nothing made it past Nell.

The Falcons were able to use that penalty kill momentum to even things up.

Dufour scored his second goal of the game at the 13:30 mark of the third when he directed Jacob Dalton’s wrist shot from the blue line in past Bitzer.

The remaining six minutes were frenetic, and featured a number of penalties and power play opportunities.

The parade to the penalty box started just eight seconds after the Falcons tied it up. Tyler Spezia’s tripping penalty gave  the Beavers a brief 5-on-4 advantage, but BSU’s Charlie O’Connor was called for a hooking penalty 32 seconds after that, making it 4-on-4.

However, BG’s Stephen Baylis was called for yet another penalty a half-minute after that. In all, the Beavers had a 4-on-3 power play for 57 seconds but were unable to score.

All those penalties expired with just over three minutes to play, and both teams had good chances to go ahead.

Bitzer made a nice save on McLain through traffic with a Falcon right in front of him with two minutes left. Then on the other end Arentz picked the pocket of a BG defenseman at the BSU blue line and had some open ice to work with, but Nell made the save with 1:22 left.

BSU finished regulation with a 41-23 shots on goal advantage.

The Falcons’ Dufour had scored the game’s first goal midway through the first period on a third-chance rebound in front of the BSU net.

BSU’s Phil Marinaccio answered at the 14:09 mark to make it 1-1 after the first 20 minutes.

Myles Fitzgerald gave the Beavers a 2-1 lead in the second period with his sweet backhand goal on the power play 4:45 into the second.

BSU held Bowling Green scoreless on just two power play attempts while the Beavers went 1-for-6 on the man-advantage.

The Beavers also outshot BGSU 48-34 in the game.

“Our guys did everything they had to do to win that game,” Serratore said. “We had our chances throughout the four periods. But we have to wipe the slate clean and get ready to play on Saturday night. And then we have to get to Sunday.”

“I think you just have to forget about it, honestly,” Harms added. “That first series really tested us. We went to three games. That’s playoffs. Things aren’t going to go your way sometimes. That’s why there’s three games. We just have to keep working and doing what we can and bring our best effort.”

Bowling Green 4, Bemidji State 3, OT

BG 1 0 2 1 -- 4

BSU 1 1 1 0 -- 3

First Period -- 1, BG, Dufour 1 (Rauhauser) 9:08; 2, BSU, Marinaccio (O’Connor, Bauman) 14:09. Penalties -- BSU, Dickman (Holding), 16:39

Second Period -- 3, BSU, M.Fitzgerald (Bauman), 4:45, PP. Penalties -- BG, Schilling (Tripping), 3:09.

Third Period -- 4, BG, M.Pohlkamp (Spezia), 0:32; 5, BSU, Arentz (M.Fitzgerald, Struthers), 1:45; 6, BG, Dufour 2 (Dalton, M.Pohlkamp) 13:30. Penalties -- BSU, O’Connor (Hooking), 3:13; BG, Dufour (Goaltender Interference), 5:07; BG, Friedman (Charging), 9:57; BG, Spezia (Tripping), 13:38; BSU, O’Connor, (Hooking), 14:10; BG, Baylis (Hooking), 14:42; BSU, Whitecloud (Slashing), 19:19, BG, McLain (Slashing), 19:19.

Overtime -- 7, BG, Dufour 3 (Smith, Schilling), 17:23. Penalties -- None.

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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