CHANHASSEN, Minn. – After a dominating junior campaign Bemidji State University junior Michael Bitzer is one of five collegiate goaltenders that have been named as finalists for the 2016-17 Mike Richter Award 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 competing in 50-percent or more of the season. Consideration will be given to the candidate’s activities in the community.
In 39 appearances and an NCAA-high 2,355.22 minutes between the pipes, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Player of the Year and All-WCHA First Team selection compiled a record of 22-14-3. He has made 912 saves on 979 shots faced for a .932 save percentage (2nd) and the nation’s best goals against average (1.71) to go with an NCAA-best six shutouts. He has backstopped a BSU defense that ranks second in the country with a goals allowed per game mark of 1.93 and a penalty-kill unit that has been among the top three in the country all season (.880).
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, owns the 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 .925 save percentage and a 1.88 goals against average. In addition, Bitzer ranks first on BSU’s all-time goaltending minutes played list with 6,031.19, is fifth on BSU’s all-time saves list (2,346) and is ninth 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.
In addition to Bitzer, Charles Williams of Canisius, Notre Dame’s Cal Peterson, Hunter Miska of Minnesota Duluth and Denver’s Tanner Jaillet were also selected as finalists for the 2016-17 Mike Richter Award.
Finalists for the Mike Richter Award, and eventually, its winner, are determined by 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 Beavers finished the 2016-17 campaign with an overall record of 22-16-3, to mark the first time BSU has posted at least 22 wins since the 2009-10 season. Bemidji State also recorded a 20-6-2-2 record in WCHA play, to set a program record for wins as a member of the league (since 2010-11), won its 22nd conference title and its first as a member of the WCHA, the MacNaughton Cup and treated its dedicated fans to a Sanford Center-record 13 home wins.
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).