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MEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers can’t convert late power play, lose in final moments to NMU

The Bemidji State men’s hockey team really needs a win. And for a moment, it looked like it might get one on Friday night at the Sanford Center.

020922.S.BP.BSUMHKY Tyler Kirkup goal.jpg
Bemidji State senior Tyler Kirkup (27) scores in the first period against Northern Michigan on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State men’s hockey team really needs a win.

For a moment, it looked like it might get one on Friday night at the Sanford Center. BSU went on the power play at 15:33 in the third period, and it seemed like the Beavers could convert a late goal and earn a much-needed home win.

But it wasn’t to be, as Northern Michigan was the team with the late game-winner. After NMU killed the penalty, David Keefer bagged the deciding score with less than two minutes left, and the Wildcats went on to win 2-1.

“It was a game of inches tonight,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “And they made one more play. They made that play with two minutes to go. And that was the difference.”

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Bemidji State senior Alex Ierullo’s (14) shot is stopped by Northern Michigan’s Tanner Vescio (26) in the final minutes of the third period on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Tyler Kirkup flipped in a shot in front of the net at 1:30 in the first period, putting the Beavers on top early. But Northern Michigan responded with a power-play goal by Bo Hanson at 9:45 to knot it up heading into the break.

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It remained that way for a while. It wasn’t until BSU went on the power play in the third period that the intensity started to rise. Bemidji State produced a couple quality chances, but they couldn’t get any pucks past NMU goaltender Charlie Glockner.

“You want to convert on that, there's no question,” Serratore said of the man advantage. “And we didn't. But they blocked some shots, they were pretty good right there.”

After the power play expired, the Wildcats started to pressure BSU’s net, and they soon got results. Keefer rifled in a shot from the left dot at 18:04 to really make the Beavers’ inability to convert hurt.

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Bemidji State goalie Mattias Sholl (30) makes a save in the third period against Northern Michigan on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“That's a tough loss. It was a painful loss,” Serratore said. “It stings when you lose a game in the last two minutes like that. We obviously need a win right now, and we found a way to lose. And we just got to suck it up.”

Mattias Sholl finished with 24 saves in net for Bemidji State, with Glockner stopping an identical total for NMU (15-11-1, 9-10-1 CCHA). Shots were hard to come by for both teams, making every scoring chance precious.

“There'll be some games, you'll get lots of shots,” Kirkup said. “Other games, it'll be hard to come by. You just got to keep pushing to get in the offensive zone and in those tough areas to get the pucks out and on net.”

Kirkup did so successfully, but after his early strike, the offensive well ran bone dry for the Beavers.

020922.S.BP.BSUMHKY Carter Jones and Lukas Sillinger.jpg
Bemidji State’s Carter Jones (13) and Lukas Sillinger (20) go after the puck in front of the Northern Michigan net in the first period on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“It was just probably a little bit more of a turf war tonight,” Serratore said. “There's no question that there was no easy ice.”

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Friday’s loss was Bemidji State’s sixth straight. It extended a stretch that has dropped BSU’s overall record from 13-10 to 13-16. The team’s CCHA record has tumbled from 11-4 to 11-10.

Still, the allure of playoff positioning, which will take effect in a month at the conference quarterfinals, is keeping the Beavers motivated during their struggles.

“It's exciting,” Kirkup said. “The most exciting time of the year in my opinion. It's intense, and it's fun being around the guys all the time. Just an exciting time when we have to be at the rink.”

Bemidji State will look for a more exciting result on the ice against Northern Michigan at 6:07 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5, back at the Sanford Center.

Northern Michigan 2, Bemidji State 1

NMU 1 0 1 -- 2

BSU 1 0 0 -- 1

First period -- 1, BSU GOAL, Kirkup (Somoza), 1:30; 2, NMU GOAL, Hanson (Ghantous, Colella), 9:45, PP.

Second period -- No scoring.

Third period -- 3, NMU GOAL, Keefer (Newhouse, Eriksson), 18:04.

Saves -- Sholl (BSU) 24; Glockner (NMU) 24.

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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