EDINA, Minn. – Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey freshman goaltender Michael Bitzer has been selected as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s 2015 Rookie of the Year and to the league’s All-Rookie Team, highlighting the announcement of the WCHA’s 2014-15 awards. In addition, captain Matt Prapavessis earned a spot on the All-WCHA Second Team and sophomore forward Brendan Harms on the third team.
Bitzer finished the regular season as the WCHA’s leader with a save percentage of .936, while ranking second in league play with a goals against average of 1.61. The freshman took the reins as the Beavers’ primary goaltender Dec. 12 and since that time has recorded a record of 12-4-3 and leads the country with a .948 save percentage and 1.31 goals against average.
In 19 appearances and 1564:25 minutes between the pipes, Bitzer is 14-9-3, has made 629 saves on 675 shots faced for a .932 save percentage and an 1.76 goals against average to go with four shutouts. He is the first BSU goaltender to record at least 14 wins since Dan Bakala posted 14 in 2010-11, the first rookie since BSU moved to the NCAA Division I level prior to the 1999-2000 season and the first BSU goaltender since Matt Climie in 2004-05 to record four shutouts during his freshman season.
Prapavessis, an All-WCHA Second-Team selection, posted 24 points (9g-15a), which includes a career-high nine goals, during the regular season to become the first BSU defenseman to lead the team in scoring since Stephan Bjork collected 34 points in 1999-2000. The Oakville, Ontario native recorded 18 points (7g-11a) in league play to rank fourth among WCHA blueliners. The senior also led the team with four power-play goals and nine points (4g-5a) on the man advantage. With 69 blocked shots, Prapavessis ranked second on the team, sixth in the WCHA and 13th in the nation. He was named as the WCHA’s Defensive Player of the Week Dec. 5.
With 70 career points in four seasons, Prapavessis ranks 20th on BSU’s all-time defensive scoring list and is among the Beavers’ top 20 players on its NCAA Division I-era scoring list. Prapavessis has never missed a game since stepping on campus in the fall of 2011—dressing in 140 consecutive contests for BSU. In addition, Prapavessis is a three-time recipient of the WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award and is a three-time WCHA All-Academic Team selection.
Despite missing nine games due to injury, Brendan Harms, an All-WCHA Third Team pick, was second on the team in scoring with 20 points (9g-11a). The sophomore from Steinbach, Manitoba tied for second on the team with a career-high nine goals, while posting three goals on the power play and logging one of BSU’s four short-handed tallies of the season. He assembled two separate five-game point scoring streaks and is second among BSU’s forwards with 24 blocked shots. Was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week Oct. 13.
With 41 points (16g-25a) in 65 games as a Beaver, Harms is already among the top 40 scorers of BSU’s NCAA Division I career scoring list. Harms was also recognized as a 2014-15 WCHA Scholar-Athlete and is a member of the WCHA All-Academic Team.
Michigan Technological University forward Tanner Kero pulled down the league’s Player of the Year award as well as the title of WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year, Colton Parayko of University of Alaska was selected Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season and Mike Hastings, head coach of 2014-15 regular season champion Minnesota State University, Mankato, was voted WCHA Coach of the Year to round out the league’s individual awards.
Prapavessis stands as the first BSU player to be a two-time All-WCHA honoree, while Bitzer is the first member of the BSU men’s hockey program to earn the Rookie of the Year award.
Prapavessis is also one of 15 BSU student-athletes named to the 2014-15 WCHA All-Academic Team. The group includes: Nate Arentz, Phil Brewer, Mitch Cain, Markus Gerbrandt, Brendan Harms, Graeme McCormack, Reid Mimmack, Charlie O’Connor, Ruslan Pedan, Matt Prapavessis, Sam Rendle, Carter Struthers, Andrew Walsh, Jesse Wilkins and Sam Windle.
A total of 132 student-athletes, representing all 10 WCHA-member institutions, earned the distinction as members of the men's 2014-15 All-WCHA Academic Team.
To be recognized as a member of the All-WCHA Academic Team, member team student-athletes must meet the following criteria: 1) have completed one year of residency at present institution, prior to the current academic year; and 2) have a grade point average of at least 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) for the previous two semesters or three quarters.
Voting for WCHA awards and all-league teams is done by member team head coaches, while the WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year award is selected by member Faculty Athletic Representatives.
For more information on the Bemidji State men’s hockey program, follow the Beavers on Twitter (@BSUBeavers or @BSUMHockey), like them on Facebook (facebook.com/BSUBeavers) or sign up for the TXTUpdates from BSUBeavers.com text-messaging system through the "Multimedia" pull down menu on the main page of BSUBeavers.com.
Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).