BEMIDJI -- The penalty kill returned to form for the Bemidji State men’s hockey team Friday night as BSU eased to a 4-1 win over No. 19 Michigan Tech in a WCHA series opener at the Sanford Center.
The PK had its work cut for itself and finished 6-for-7 on the night. It nearly ended unblemished if not for a power-play goal with a minute to go in the game, the lone score conceded by Zach Driscoll and the Beavers (13-7-3, 13-3-1-0 WCHA).
The unit proved the three goals it allowed in the team’s most recent game at Alabama Huntsville -- uncharacteristic for the nation’s third-ranked PK -- were a fluke.
“I thought our guys played like champions tonight on the penalty kill,” head coach Tom Serratore said. “Right away they got a breakaway. They exposed us a little bit. They knew what they were doing and attacked our seams. … We had to make some adjustments up ice, and I think once we made those adjustments up ice we were a lot better. I thought we did a good job of negating their rush offense on the power play.”
The PK went to work right away in the game’s first minute and then later endured an extended 5-on-3 opportunity. Not only were the Huskies (13-11-2, 8-8-1-1 WCHA) stopped in their tracks, but Hampus Sjodahl netted a shorthanded goal that added insult to injury.
“That was a heck of a nice goal,” Serratore said of Sjodahl’s marker. “It was kind of deflating for Tech and a shot in the arm for us.”
Five minutes earlier, Alex Ierullo roofed a one-timer for the game’s first goal after Owen Sillinger connected with the sophomore up front.
Seconds after the first penalty expired during the 5-on-3, Sjodahl skated to a breakaway and lasered a puck off the right post for his second shorthanded goal of the season.
“(The penalty kill) really bailed us out,” senior Adam Brady said. “We were probably in the box a little too much. But when those guys stepped up and did what they did, I thought that was huge for us. I thought Driscoll was awesome, too.”
Brady padded the lead at the 6:00 mark of the second. Alex Adams won a puck down low and fed Brady for a shot that trickled past Blake Pietila for his team-leading 12th goal of the season. Pietila got the hook after the goal, finishing with 17 saves on 20 shots.
The Huskies began to show more fight during the back half of the period, but the Beavers held on to their 3-0 lead through the intermission.
The power play got into the mix in the third period when Sillinger scored from a tough angle to extend the lead to 4-0. Tommy Muck picked up his career-high 10th assist on the play and Elias Rosen notched his team-leading 12th helper, as well.
Alec Broetzman spoiled Bemidji State’s shutout attempt with his power-play tally with 1:04 to go, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Beavers from clinching a season-best five-game win streak.
“I think just playing a full game really,” Brady said of what’s been clicking for the team lately. “Playing with the lead I thought we’ve been pretty good, too. That can be tough. … I thought we’ve been pretty mature with our lead and I thought we’ve been pretty good at obviously putting pucks in, too. We’re scoring goals at a pretty good rate right now, so that’s helping us, too, for sure.”
BSU will hope to keep the goals coming in Saturday’s series finale as the Beavers aim for their sixth victory in a row. Puck drop is set for 6:07 p.m.
Bemidji State 4, No. 19 Michigan Tech 1
MTU 0 0 1 -- 1
BSU 2 1 1 -- 4
First period -- 1, BSU, Ierullo (Sillinger, Combs), 12:38; 2, BSU, Sjodahl (B. Johnson), 17:11, SH.
Second period -- 3, BSU, Brady (Adams), 6:00.
Third period -- 4, BSU, Sillinger (Muck, Rosen), 3:34, PP; 5, MTU, Broetzman (Smith, Swoyer), 18:56, PP.
Goalies (saves-shots) -- BSU, Driscoll (24-25); MTU, B. Pietila (17-20), Jurusik (12-13).