MEN’S HOCKEY: BSU returns home after spell of late-game bad luck
BEMIDJI -- Luck did not seem to be on the side of the Bemidji State men's hockey team last weekend. The Beavers surrendered goals late in both games of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at league-leading Bowling Green.
BEMIDJI -- Luck did not seem to be on the side of the Bemidji State men’s hockey team last weekend. The Beavers surrendered goals late in both games of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at league-leading Bowling Green.
Bemidji State (5-6-3, 2-4-2-2 WCHA) nearly forced overtime Friday, only to see the Falcons score the go-ahead goal with 1 minute, 12 seconds left in a 3-1 loss.
The late-game misfortune continued the following night as BSU scored with less than six minutes remaining to assume a 3-2 lead. However, BGSU equalized with 54 seconds left in regulation and the game ultimately ended in a 3-3 tie, though the Beavers did win the shootout for an extra point in the league standings.
“It’s a fine line between winning and losing, and sometimes you’re getting that break,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “Sometimes you don’t get the breaks.”
Though the Beavers only claimed two points in the standings, and might have left some on the table, Serratore said the series shouldn’t be judged on points.
“We have to look at the play, and I thought overall we played very well,” Serratore said. “We were stingier defensively than we have been over the course of the last month. We feel we’ve gotten looser and we tightened up a bit, which is good.”
“After that week last weekend, we can prepare ourselves to know that we’re going to have to be ready for those late-game pushes and stalemates,” said freshman forward Aaron Miller, who assisted on BSU’s two third-period goals Saturday. “We have to be able to protect a one-goal lead.”
The Beavers will return to the Sanford Center this weekend for their first home series in nearly a month. They will face Northern Michigan in a pair of games at 7:07 p.m. today and Saturday, Dec. 9.
“We’re looking forward to playing at home here,” said junior forward Mike Soucier, who scored the lone BSU goal Friday. “It’s been a little bit, so it definitely helps to play at home in front of our crowd.”
Bemidji State went 6-1 in seven games against the Wildcats (8-8-0, 6-4-0-0 WCHA) last season, including a 2-1 series win in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
“We know it’s going to be a big weekend,” Miller said. “We need some points, obviously, in our conference right now. We have two weekends left before break so every weekend is a big weekend for us right now.”
First-year head coach Grant Potulny has NMU in fourth place in the WCHA through his first two months in charge. Potulny had served as an assistant at Minnesota for eight seasons before joining the Wildcats.
NMU split with Alabama Huntsville last weekend, but has lost four of its last five games.
“They’re a fast team,” Serratore said. “That’s the biggest thing right there is they’ve got a lot of speed and they’ve got some experience. But this team right now, they’re a very confident team. They’re doing well in the league…. We (have to) make sure the next three weekends at home, we (have to) try to get some points.”
Goaltending woes Entering the year, BSU and NMU each featured two of the best goalies in the WCHA, but neither is experiencing the same success so far this season.
Wildcats netminder Atte Tolvanen tied an NCAA record with five straight shutouts and was a second-team WCHA selection last season. This year, the junior has comparable numbers (2.43 GAA, .916 SV) to last year (2.64, .918), but has been splitting time with sophomore Mathias Israelsson and has not started a game since a 4-1 loss at Alaska on Nov. 18.
Israelsson has started the Wildcats’ last six games and owns a 2.78 goals against average and .891 save percentage in eight starts.
Meanwhile, Bemidji State goalie Michael Bitzer has posted a 2.73 goals against average with a .898 save percentage in 13 starts, career lows for the senior in both categories after posting career-highs (1.71 GAA and .932 SV) last year. Bitzer’s numbers are, however, a bit skewed due to the eight goals he conceded in an 8-6 loss to Minnesota State on Nov. 11.