GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Van Andel Arena) -- There may not have been many who gave the Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team a chance to be in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, let alone to compete with a nationally-ranked University of Notre Dame team in the Midwest Regional semifinals, but with a convincing 5-1 victory over the Fighting Irish Saturday night at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich, the Beavers proved that they belonged.
Bemidji State caught a bounce, struck in the game’s opening moments, and would not look back, scooting out to a 4-0 lead before the Fighting Irish were able to break the seal on the BSU net.
The Beavers added an empty-net marker in the game’s final minutes to solidify its place in Sunday’s regional final.
“I am proud of our players,” head coach Tom Serratore said. “This program has had a lot of success over the years, but a win like this is extremely gratifying for everyone affiliated with Beaver hockey.”
The team’s excitement was undermined by the fact that the season is not over. “Obviously this is exciting,” commented Tyler Scofield (Sr., F, Prince George, British Columbia), who posted his fourth multi-goal contest of the year. “This was a big game and it was a big step, but we’ve got another team out there and we’ve got to start focusing on tomorrow. We’ll enjoy this while we can, but were not done. We’ve still got business here tomorrow night.”
It took the underdog Beavers just 1:42 to light their half of the scoreboard. Notre Dame goaltender Jordan Pearce went behind the net to play the puck, misplayed it and stumbled as he attempted to get back in the net. BSU’s assistant captain Chris McKelvie (Jr., F, New Brighton, Minn.) was in the right place at the right time and pushed the puck across the goal line. The unassisted goal was his third of the season and a just sign of things to come.
The Beavers extended that lead to two nine minutes later. Notre Dame’s Ian Cole was sent to the box for hooking at the 9:48 mark to set up BSU’s first power-play of the tournament. Matt Read (So., F, Ilderton, Ontario) found Brad Hunt (Fr., D, Ridge Meadows, British Columbia) on the point for a shot. Hunt’s attempt was tipped in by Scofield for the Beavers’ second goal and would stand as Scofield’s team-leading fourth game-winning goal of 2008-09.
The BSU lead swelled to 3-0 at the 13:19 mark of the second period when a Notre Dame defender deflected a Ben Kinne (Fr., F, St. Paul, Minn.) shot past Pearce. Shea Walters (Fr., F, Hibbing, Minn.) and Ryan Cramer (So., F, International Falls, Minn.), who made his first appearance since suffering a knee injury Feb. 19 at Niagara, were credited with assists on the play.
Dalton was a wall for BSU, single-handedly keeping the Beavers in position to win. During the first 40 minutes of play alone, Dalton piled up 22 saves and held one of the elite scoring attacks in all of college hockey silent heading into the third.
“Matt has really played great for us all year and he’s really seeing the puck well right now,” stated BSU senior captain Travis Winter (F, St. Cloud, Minn.). He’s on his angles and he’s not allowing a lot of rebounds. He’s just really confident right now and we are really confident in him.”
The Beavers opened the final frame a man short after Cody Bostock (Sr., Salmon Arm, British Columbia) was called for holding with two seconds to go in the second.
The first 1:58 of the third served as a fulcrum for the Beavers. Either they were going to stand strong and begin to put the clamps on the region’s top-seeded team or they were going to break and open the door for a Notre Dame comeback. Not only did the BSU penalty-kill unit do just as it has so often down the stretch by squashing the Notre Dame power-play attempt, but Read netted his third short-handed goal of the season on a rocket from the top of the right faceoff circle to put BSU up 4-0 just 49 seconds into the period.
Notre Dame responded with a goal from Dan Kissel at the 6:04 mark of the period to cut the deficit to 4-1.
As desperation set in, the Fighting Irish pulled Pearce with 3:47 to play. Scofield and the Beavers made them pay as he picked off a Notre Dame pass at the top of the Notre Dame offensive zone and buried an empty-net exclamation point from the red line to put the 5-1 win the books.
Dalton finished turning away 34-of-35 Notre Dame shots and was the backbone of the penalty kill unit that kept the nation’s top power-play unit scoreless on four man-advantage opportunities. He improves to 18-10-1 with the win.
Pearce totaled 14 saves, was tagged with the loss, his first since Feb. 8, and caps his senior season leading the nation with 30 victories and an impressive 30-6-3 overall record.
The Beavers (19-18-1) and the Cornell University Big Red (22-9-4) meet in the Midwest regional championship game tomorrow at 7 p.m. Central time. The contest to determine the fourth and final spot in the 2009 Frozen Four in Washington, D.C. will be televised live on ESPNU.
Notes: The win is the first ever over Notre Dame (1-0-0)... BSU captures its 24th NCAA Tournament win all-time, but its first at the Division I level...BSU knocks off its first ranked opponent since it beat No. 8 Colorado College Dec. 29, 2006... BSU is now 15-0-0 this season when leading after two periods... When Matt Read scores, the Beavers are 12-1-0 in 2008-09... When scoring three or more goals, BSU is 15-4-1 and is a perfect 10-0-0 when scoring four or more... The victory over No. 2 Notre Dame stands as the second over a top 10 team since BSU moved to the NCAA Division I ranks in the 1999-2000 season and the only win over a top five team... Hunt’s helper extended his BSU Division I-era single season defenseman assists record to 23... With two points in the game, Matt Read moved past Jean-Guy Gervais and into sole possession of 11th place on BSU’s Division I-era scoring list with 23-41=64 points... The BSU win snapped the nation’s longest current winning streak at 10 games... Bemidji State and Boston University are now tied for the longest current streak at 4-0-0.