BEMIDJI -- Hockey Day Minnesota went as scripted for Dillon Eichstadt.
The former Bemidji Lumberjack and current Bemidji State senior defenseman scored the game-winning goal in overtime Friday night, lifting the Beaver men’s hockey team to a 4-3 win over Michigan Tech on the outdoor rink beside Lake Bemidji’s south shore.
The hometown player downplayed his overtime heroics.
“Obviously, more importantly just getting three points for the team was huge,” Eichstadt said. “We were in need of a win. The fact that I was the lucky enough one to score it. Yeah, I guess (it was a storybook moment). Pretty cool moment though for sure.”
“It was a fun game,” said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. “They get the lead, we answer back. But it was probably a fitting ending with No. 20 (Eichstadt) getting it.”
The teams braved temperatures that dropped to as low as minus 15 degrees in what will likely go down as one of the coldest games in NCAA Division I hockey history.
“It played a factor,” Eichstadt said of the cold, “but if you were having a regular shift, I think it was probably easier for the guys who had a regular shift. … If you were going minutes without getting out there I think it’d probably be harder just because of the cold factor. I found the toes were probably the biggest problem area. A lot of guys were complaining about that.”
Goalie Zach Driscoll made 33 saves in the winning effort for the Beavers (11-11-3, 9-7-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association). The sophomore netminder not only had to fight the frigid temperatures, but also a dark sky, bright stadium lights and strange shadows.
“We practiced yesterday out there so we kind got a little bit of a feel. But it was light out,” Driscoll said. “We practiced yesterday in the day, and then you get out and try to get the eyes going in warmups. You could tell right away that with those off-angle shots when the lights were kind of in your eyes.”
Though the conditions may have provided their challenges, the elements couldn’t come close to keeping players, fans or coaches from enjoying the spectacle.
“It was a fun environment,” Serratore said. “It was a great environment. Obviously, we realize it was extremely cold out there, but I think it makes it even more memorable for both teams.”
Eichstadt and his teammates are unlikely to forget the setting along Lake Bemidji.
“I grew up not too far from here, and when I was little I would always play at Nymore outdoor (rink),” said the Bemidji native. “I’d get dropped off and spend the day there. That rink is probably less than a mile from the outdoor (rink). So for me it was pretty cool. Pretty cool moment to be able to, as a senior here, just have this opportunity.”
With three league points in hand, BSU will face the Huskies (11-12-2, 10-6-1-1 WCHA) in the series finale at 7:37 p.m. Saturday. Only this time, they’ll play in a 59-degree, climate-controlled Sanford Center.
Bemidji State 4, Michigan Tech 3 (OT)
MTU 2 1 0 0 -- 3
BSU 1 2 0 1 -- 4
First period -- 1, MTU, Halonen (Bellant, Jackson), 2:35; 2, BSU, Somoza (Brady, Armour), 3:05; 3, MTU, Kiilunen (Gotz, Reitmeier), 15:28.
Second period -- 4, BSU, Billett (Armour), 0:06; 5, MTU, Gould (Lucchini, Steman), 3:27; 6, BSU, Dickman (Johnson, Cardelli), 6:56.
Third period -- no scoring.
Overtime -- 7, BSU, Eichstadt (Armour, Muck), 3:05, PP.
Goalies (saves-shots) -- BSU, Driscoll (33-36); MTU, Beydoun (39-43).