MANKATO -- The Bemidji State men’s hockey team survived a late surge to pull off a 4-2 victory over No. 3 Minnesota State on Saturday night at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in Mankato.
The win clinched a WCHA series split for the Beavers (14-8-4, 14-4-2-1 WCHA) as they pulled back to within six points of the Mavericks (23-4-1, 17-3-0-0 WCHA) for first place in the conference.
Zach Driscoll stood on his head in net as he made an eye-popping 48 saves, a career high for the junior.
The netminder had a shutout going through nearly the first 56 minutes of the contest.
With opposing goalie Dryden McKay pulled for an extra attacker, the Mavericks scored twice in the closing minutes of the third period to make it a one-goal game. But Nick Cardelli iced the game with an empty-netter, his second goal on the night.
Alex Ierullo and Cardelli scored in each of the first two periods and Tyler Kirkup extended the lead to 3-0 for BSU at the 6:43 mark of the third period.
Despite an early push by MSU, Ierullo scored at the 13:11 mark of the first period to give Bemidji State a 1-0 lead for the second night in a row.
After a tripping penalty on Minnesota State’s Ian Scheid, Cardelli struck on the power play off a rush two minutes into the second period to make it 2-0.
With 13:17 to play in the third, Kirkup tipped in Elias Rosen’s shot for the eventual game-winning goal.
The Mavericks pulled McKay for the extra skater with 6:35 to go. The move paid off as Dallas Gerads and Charlie Gerard found the back of the net to cut the lead to 3-2 with 2:27 on the clock.
The Beavers stemmed the tide with Cardelli’s empty-net goal after weathering the onslaught by MSU. The Mavericks won the shots battle 50-18, but BSU won what mattered most.
The Bemidji State penalty kill stopped the nation’s top power-play unit dead in its tracks for the second straight night, holding Minnesota State scoreless on three opportunities. The Beavers converted on their lone power-play chance.
Besides Cardelli’s two goals, Ierullo finished with a goal and an assist and Adam Brady posted two helpers.
BSU will return to the Sanford Center next weekend, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, for a pivotal WCHA series against sixth-place and 18th-ranked Bowling Green.
Bemidji State 4, No. 3 Minnesota State 2
BSU 1 1 2 -- 4
MSU 0 0 2 -- 2
First period -- 1, BSU, Ierullo (Combs), 13:11.
Second period -- 2, BSU, Cardelli (Brady, Driscoll), 2:20, PP.
Third period -- 3, BSU, Kirkup (Rosen, Ierullo), 6:43; 4, MSU, Gerads (French, Lutz), 15:59, EX; 5, MSU, Gerard (Mackey, Smith), 17:33, EX; 6, BSU, Cardelli (Brady, Armour), 19:10, EN.
Goalies (saves-shots) -- BSU, Driscoll (48-50); MSU, McKay (14-17).