MEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers score late equalizer, 3-on-3 OT winner in 2-2 tie
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alex Ierullo kept the Bemidji State men’s hockey team’s MacNaughton Cup hopes alive Saturday night. The sophomore buried a game-tying goal -- a shorthanded one to be exact -- with under three minutes to go in regulation to help secure the No. 13 Beavers a 2-2 tie at Alaska Anchorage.
Tommy Muck clinched a crucial extra point in the WCHA standings with his 3-on-3 overtime-winning goal.
After Minnesota State topped Alabama Huntsville 7-0 earlier in the night, BSU needed at least two points to stay in contention to clinch a share of the MacNaughton Cup, and that’s exactly what the Beavers got. The Mavericks secured at least a share of the MacNaughton due to Bemidji State’s tie.
Now six points back of MSU, BSU can claim a share of the WCHA regular-season title with a sweep of the Mavericks next weekend at the Sanford Center. A sweep would also give the Beavers the No. 1 seed for the league playoffs by virtue of owning the head-to-head tiebreaker. MSU only needs one point to win the title outright, however.
Bemidji State fielded a depleted lineup Saturday as freshman defenseman Elias Rosén became the latest Beaver to be held out with an injury. Hampus Sjödahl, Ross Armour and Nick Cardelli were also absent Saturday.
Charlie Combs gave BSU a 1-0 lead with his power-play goal at 6:37 of the first period. Brendan Harris slid a pass across to Combs in the right circle for his 11th goal of the season.
During the back half of the second period, the Beavers (19-8-5, 19-4-3-2 WCHA) spent nearly three minutes on a 5-on-3 advantage, but were unable to find the back of the net. Three consecutive UAA penalties created the extended power play, beginning with a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind on Zach Nazzarett. Two-minute minors for tripping and too many men followed, but the Seawolves (4-21-7, 4-16-6-3 WCHA) killed every penalty.
In the period’s final minute, BSU failed to clear as Alex Frye collected the puck behind the cage and jammed it past Zach Driscoll for the tying goal with 31 seconds left.
A holding call set up the Seawolves on the power play early in the third period. Frye redirected a shot in the low slot to lift UAA to a 2-1 lead with 17:03 to play, the second goal of the night for the freshman forward.
The Beavers desperately searched for an equalizer, but their inability to stay out of the penalty box made the task even more difficult as they were whistled for three penalties in the final 10 minutes.
None hurt more than Owen Sillinger’s, who was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind with 4:42 to go in the third, giving the Seawolves a power play for the remainder of regulation.
With Bemidji State minutes away from its first loss in a month, Tyler Kirkup backhanded a centering pass to Ierullo, who beat Brandon Perrone for the shorthanded goal with 2:49 to go in regulation.
After a scoreless 5-on-5 overtime, Muck’s wrister at the 2:30 mark of 3-on-3 overtime delivered BSU the pivotal extra standings point.
Driscoll totaled 34 saves, including 15 in the third period.
The Beavers finished 1-for-5 on the power play, while the penalty kill held UAA to 1-for-5 on the man advantage.
Bemidji State remains unbeaten in its last seven (6-0-1) and is now 11-1-2 since the start of 2020. The team also remained No. 11 in the Pairwise rankings following Saturday’s game.
The MacNaughton Cup will be in attendance when the Beavers host No. 3 Minnesota State for the final series of the regular season next weekend at the Sanford Center, Feb. 28-29. Opening faceoff is set for 7:07 p.m. Friday and 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
No. 13 Bemidji State 2, Alaska Anchorage 2 (BSU wins in 3-on-3 OT)
BSU 1 0 1 0 -- 2
UAA 0 1 1 0 -- 2
First period -- 1, BSU, Combs (Harris, Jones), 6:37, PP.
Second period -- 2, UAA, Frye (Lantz), 19:29.
Third period -- 3, UAA, Frye (Brown, St. Onge), 2:57, PP; 4, BSU, Ierullo (Kirkup), 17:11, SH.
Overtime -- No scoring.