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MEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers win Game 3, advance to CCHA semifinals

Mattias Sholl turned away chance after chance to backstop the Beavers to a 3-1 win over Bowling Green in a winner-take-all Game 3 of the CCHA quarterfinals – completing their comeback from a 1-0 series deficit and advancing them through to the semifinals against Michigan Tech.

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The Beavers celebrate with goalie Mattias Sholl (30) after defeating Bowling Green 3-1 in a CCHA quarterfinal game on Sunday, March 6, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – When Mattias Sholl sees an opponent coming at him on a breakaway, he doesn’t panic.

He doesn’t have much time to think, either, so he keeps it simple. He relies on positive affirmation to get his mind right, then lets his athletic ability take over.

“I kind of just tell myself, ‘Stop the puck. You're going to make the save,’” Sholl said.

It worked out quite well for the Bemidji State men’s hockey team on Sunday at the Sanford Center. The freshman netminder turned away chance after chance to backstop the Beavers to a 3-1 win over Bowling Green in a winner-take-all Game 3 of the CCHA quarterfinals – completing their comeback from a 1-0 series deficit and advancing them through to the semifinals against Michigan Tech.

“You just have to have it,” said BSU head coach Tom Serratore of Sholl’s stellar goaltending. “You're not going to be around long if you don't have a goaltender, and he was really good for us tonight.”

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Sholl stonewalled Falcons captain Alex Barber on multiple breakaways, which made the three goals Bemidji State scored stand up.

“Barber, he's one of their top players, if not their top player,” Serratore said. “That game could have been different if Barber scores one or both of those goals.”

Sholl received some help in the scoring department from some of his older teammates. Fifth-year forward Ethan Somoza got the Beavers (18-19) going with a goal off quick passes from Eric Martin and Owen Sillinger at 1:54 in the second period. Somoza looked to have another score at 6:12 in the second, but it was overturned for an offsides violation.

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Bemidji State senior Ethan Somoza (9) celebrates with hockey fans after scoring in the second period against Bowling Green in a CCHA quarterfinal game on Sunday, March 6, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Bowling Green (15-19-3) eliminated the slim margin with a goal by Evan Dougherty at 7:43 in the third, as Sholl was extended from the goal line and unable to make the save.

But BSU countered quickly with another nice sequence. Alex Ierullo dug the puck out at the BGSU blue line, then whipped a right-to-left pass to Lukas Sillinger to set up the go-ahead – and ultimately game-winning – score during a 4-on-4 at 10:13.

“That's a huge goal for us to put us up 2-1 in the third,” Somoza said. “Just a great effort by Ierullo, a great finish by Lukas. That was what we needed.”

The Beavers buckled down on defense down the stretch, deflecting puck after puck and ensuring puck control would be at a premium for the hungry Falcons. Sholl steered the action throughout, contributing timely puck freezes and rebound control to limit BGSU’s second chances.

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Bemidji State goalie Mattias Sholl (30) stops the puck in the third period against Bowling Green in a CCHA quarterfinal game on Sunday, March 6, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

And at 19:28, when Owen Sillinger's empty-netter slid in past the Bowling Green goal line, BSU knew it would be moving on to face Michigan Tech.

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“It’s huge,” Sholl said. “You battle for three days straight. You get the series win versus a really good opponent. You put everything out on the line there and you empty the tanks. So it's obviously a relief and it's an unbelievable feeling to win a series.

“... We're going to enjoy it for a day or so. But we know there's still a job left to do, so we're going to get ready for that.”

With the series victory, Bemidji State has tacked another week onto its season. The Beavers are now two wins away from the CCHA championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

But before that, they’ll have to go through Michigan Tech in a one-game semifinal. BSU faces the Huskies at 5:07 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, in Houghton, Mich.

Bemidji State 3, Bowling Green 1

BGSU 0 0 1 -- 1

BSU 0 1 2 -- 3

First period -- No scoring.

Second period -- 1, BSU GOAL, Somoza (Martin, O. Sillinger), 1:54.

Third period -- 2, BGSU GOAL, Dougherty (Wozney, Norris), 7:43; 3, BSU GOAL, L. Sillinger (Ierullo), 10:13, 4v4; 4, BSU GOAL, O. Sillinger (unassisted), 19:28, EN.

Saves -- Sholl (BSU) 23; Stoever (BGSU) 25.

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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