CHANHASSEN, Minn. – Bemidji State University junior Michael Bitzer is one of 10 collegiate goaltenders that has been placed on the 2016-17 Mike Richter Award semifinal list by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation.
The award, which is in its fourth year, annually honors the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey.
Criteria for the Mike Richter Award include: Candidates must display outstanding skills on the ice, good academic standing at an NCAA college or university, academic achievement and sportsmanship, compliance with all NCAA rules; be full-time students at an NCAA college or university; and completing in 50-percent or more of the season. Consideration will be given to the candidate’s activities in the community.
In 37 appearances and an NCAA-high 2,219:13 minutes between the pipes, Bitzer has compiled a record of 22-12-3. He has made 852 saves on 913 shots faced for a .933 save percentage and the nation’s best goals against average (1.65) to go with an NCAA-best six shutouts. He has backstopped a BSU defense that boasts the best goals allowed per game mark (1.89) and a penalty-kill unit that has been among the top three in the country all season (.885).
Bitzer cemented his place among BSU’s greatest goaltenders as a junior. He is the first BSU goaltender to record at least 22 wins since Steve O’Shea in 1986-87, he owns BSU career shutouts record (16), matched his own BSU single-season record with six in 2016-17, and sits atop BSU’s career goaltending lists with a .926 save percentage and a 1.86 goals against average. In addition, Bitzer ranks second on BSU’s all-time goaltending minutes played list with 5,898:10 minutes played, is fifth on BSU’s all-time saves list (2,286) and is eighth on the Beaver Hockey victories list (49).
Off the ice, Bitzer has been involved as a volunteer with the Bemidji Area Food Shelf as a gardener and Little Lady Lumberjacks, a youth program geared towards getting girls in the Bemidji area involved in hockey and developing girls hockey. He also served meals at the local elementary schools as a part of the “Hockey Opera” project, and helped fellow Bemidji State classmates move into the dorms as a part of the BSU campus move in. In addition he has mentored youth hockey players at Branham Hockey Camps as an off-ice instructor and on-ice goalie coach.
Finalists for the Mike Richter Award, and eventually, its winner, will be determined a committee of coaches, scouts and members of the media. The winner will be announced at the 2017 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in Chicago.
Past winners of the award include: Thatcher Demko of Boston College (2016), North Dakota’s Zane McIntyre (2015) and Connor Hellebuyck of UMass-Lowell (2014).
The 2016-17 WCHA regular season champion Beavers (22-14-3) defeated Northern Michigan March 3-5 in a WCHA quarterfinal best-of-three series and now welcomes the No. 4 seed, Bowling Green Friday, Saturday and Sunday, if needed, for a best-of-three series for the right to move on to play for an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament in the league’s championship game, March 18.
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).