CHICAGO – Bemidji State University men’s hockey goaltender Michael Bitzer has been named to the CCM All-America West First Team. The announcement came from the American Hockey Coaches’ Association Friday, as part of the 2017 NCAA Frozen Four festivities in Chicago. A junior, Bitzer becomes the second BSU Division I-era player to earn AHCA postseason recognition.
The CCM All-America honor is another in a long list of accolades already garnered by Bitzer this season. The All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association First Team selection became the first player in BSU history to be named WCHA Player of the Year and also won the league’s goaltending award after backstopping a league-best scoring defense (1.57 GPG) and leading the league in goals against average (1.40), save percentage (.940) and wining percentage (.778). A four-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Week recipient, Bitzer also garnered one of the NCAA’s Three Stars after posting back-to-back shutouts at Northern Michigan, Oct. 14-15. He was also named as one of the top 10 for the 2016-17 Hobey Baker Memorial Award and one of five finalists for the 2016-17 Mike Richter Award, given annually to the nation’s top goaltender.
Bitzer becomes the 57th player in Bemidji State history to garner all-America accolades, and those 57 players have now won a total of 83 all-America awards led by Jim McElmury (1968-71) and Mark Eagles (1973-76) who each corralled four all-America honors while at BSU. Bitzer becomes Bemidji State’s first all-America pick since Matt Read (2007-11) garnered Second Team RBK All-America honors following the 2009-10 season and just the third since the Beavers moved to the NCAA Division I level for the 1999-2000 campaign. Andrew Murray (2001-05) also garnered Third-Team All-USCHO.com laurels at the conclusion of the 2004-05 campaign.
In 39 appearances and an NCAA-high 2,355.22 minutes between the pipes in 2016-17, Bitzer compiled a record of 22-14-3. He made 912 saves on 979 shots faced for a .932 save percentage (3rd) 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 two in the country all season (.880).
Bitzer cemented his place among BSU’s greatest goaltenders as a junior. He became 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).
Since joining the Beaver Hockey program, the native of Moorhead, Minn., has led BSU to its first WCHA regular-season title, three consecutive WCHA Playoff appearances and a 2015 North Star College Cup championship.
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).