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MEN’S HOCKEY: Late turnover consequential as Beavers fall behind BGSU

Goals were hard to come by on Friday at the Sanford Center, so one mistake cost Bemidji State in game one of the CCHA quarterfinals.

030922.S.BP.BSUMHKY Chaos.jpg
The Beavers collide with the Falcons in front of the Bowling Green net in the third period of a CCHA quarterfinal game on Friday, March 4, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- Goals were hard to come by on Friday at the Sanford Center.

And as the third-seeded Bemidji State men’s hockey team battled with sixth-seeded Bowling Green in the first game of their best-of-three CCHA quarterfinal series, it became clear that one mistake could swing the contest.

Unfortunately for the Beavers, they were the ones who made the critical error, as a third-period turnover at BSU’s defensive blue line gave Bowling Green’s Brayden Krieger an excellent look at the net. And though his first attempt was blocked by BSU netminder Mattias Sholl, Krieger tried again and succeeded on the rebound, giving the Falcons a 2-1 playoff win and a 1-0 series lead.

“In a series like this, we knew it was going to be a tight game and it was going to be back and forth,” senior forward Owen Sillinger said. “We can't really dwell on it. We've just got to keep pushing, and we got to get the next one.”

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Bemidji State senior Owen Sillinger (12) chases the puck in the second period against Bowling Green in a CCHA quarterfinal game on Friday, March 4, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore talked before the series about preparing his players to go the full three games if necessary, and he mentioned the importance of taking shorter shifts to keep legs fresh. But with one loss separating them from the end of their season, everything is on the table.

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“There's times you're doing it, you're rolling four (lines), you're going shorter shifts, and there's times that it just doesn't happen,” Serratore said. “Some of it too is when you're playing from behind, it is what it is. You're trying to get that second one. So sometimes you're going to have to deviate from what your plan might be.”

BGSU’s Ryan O’Hara gave the Falcons (15-17-3) an early lead with a score off a deflected shot at 14:44 in the first period. Bemidji State responded in kind with a goal in the crease by Sillinger at 17:14 off a goal-line pass from Alex Ierullo.

With the score, Sillinger reset the BSU single-season Division I points record at 42, a silver lining in an otherwise gloomy outcome for the Beavers (16-19).

“Forty-two points is a heck of a season,” Serratore said. “And bypassing Matt Read, who was one of the best players that ever played at Bemidji State, that's a nice accomplishment for Owen.”

But Krieger’s goal, scored at 11:48 in the third period, ensured that BSU would leave the rink unhappy.

“It's win or go home,” Sillinger said. “So all the chips are down. Tomorrow's straight desperation. It's going to be ramped up, the intensity is going to be high and we're going to have to win.”

Sholl kept the Beavers in the game late with multiple rangy saves – including some quick blocks of rebounded shots – in the second and third periods, setting the stage for BSU to bag a game-winner. It didn’t happen on Friday, but Sholl’s 21-save effort still deserved acclaim.

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Bemidji State goalie Mattias Sholl (30) stops a shot in the third period against Bowling Green in a CCHA quarterfinal game on Friday, March 4, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“He played good,” Serratore said. “That second-effort save in the second period was a big-time save. He responded big-time right there. That was a big shot in the arm and lifted the bench.”

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Moving forward, Bemidji State has to win two straight games to keep its season alive. BSU should be plenty motivated to do so – just ask the man who etched his name in the program’s record book.

“I’ve made so many great relationships and memories with my teammates and my coaches, and I don't want it to end,” Sillinger said. “I want to go on a long run here, and it starts tomorrow. And I'm excited to do it.”

BSU will get another shot at the Falcons – and a must-win one at that – at 6:07 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, at the Sanford Center.

Bowling Green 2, Bemidji State 1

BGSU 1 0 1 -- 2

BSU 1 0 0 -- 1

First period -- 1, BGSU GOAL, O’Hara (Craggs, Lloyd), 14:44; 2, BSU GOAL, O. Sillinger (Ierullo, Rosén), 17:14.

Second period -- No scoring.

Third period -- 3, BGSU GOAL, Krieger (unassisted), 11:48.

Saves -- Sholl (BSU) 21; Stoever (BGSU) 26.

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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