The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team (7-6-5; 4-4-4-2 WCHA) returns to action this weekend to continue Western Collegiate Hockey Association play as it hosts the University of Alabama-Huntsville (2-6-2; 5-7-2-1 WCHA). Unbeaten in their last five contests (2-0-3), the Beavers’ look to close out the 2017 calendar year riding a string of seven games without a loss.
The Beavers earned a series sweep of the University of Alaska Anchorage prior to the holiday break to establish its longest unbeaten streak since a 7-0-1 run from Oct. 28-Nov. 18 of last season. The nine-goal weekend versus the Seawolves stood as a high-water mark for BSU, led by Jay Dickman and Kyle Buaman, who each recorded five points in the series. With five assists, Bauman overtook Gerry Fitzgerald for the team’s scoring lead with 19 points (6g-13a) in 18 appearances this season. After logging his second hat trick of the season, Dickman leads BSU in goal-scoring with a career-high 10. Linemate Myles Fitzgerald has been a catalyst to BSU’s scoring since returning to the line up Dec. 8. Fitzgerald has scored in the Beavers’ last four contests (4g-1a) and has a three-game goal-scoring streak. Senior goaltender Michael Bitzer has backstopped a penalty-kill unit that is third in the nation. The team has snuffed out 53 of its opponents’ 58 man advantage opportunities (.914) and 35-of-39 in WCHA play to lead the league (.923). Bitzer has started in the Beavers’ net for 17-of-18 games and is 7-5-5 with a .906 save percentage, a 2.41 goals against average and three shutouts.
The Chargers arrive in Bemidji, Minn., toting a 6-12-2 overall record and are 5-7-2-1 in WCHA play. After being swept my Minnesota State University, Mankato in its last action, Dec. 15-16, UAH is without a win in its last four (0-3-1) and seeks its first victory since Dec. 2. The Charger attack is averaging 2.71 goals per game and is led by Josh Kestner, who has 16 points (12g-4a) and includes 12 points (10g-3a) in 10 WCHA contests. Tyler Poulsen has a team-high 10 assists and is second on the UAH roster with 15 points (5g-10a). While the Chargers’ goaltenders have shared netminding duties this season, senior Jordan Uhelski has made an appearance in 16-of-20 games for UAH. He is 6-8-2 with a 3.00 goals against average and .906 save percentage.
The Bemidji State/Alabama-Huntsville rivalry got its start March 11, 1994. The Beavers hold a 47-30-5 lead in the all-time series including a dominant 34-5-3 mark versus the Chargers since Mar. 3, 2006. The Beavers enter this weekend’s series unbeaten by UAH in 23 of the last 26 meetings (22-3-1), but lost their last meeting with the Chargers, 5-2, In Huntsville, Ala., Feb. 11, 2017. That loss snapped a six-game wining streak by the Beavers.
In addition to being charter members of College Hockey America, these teams have a long-standing, bitter rivalry dating back to the NCAA Division II days. The Chargers and Beavers met in the national tournament on four occasions with BSU defeating UAH for NCAA Division II titles in 1994 and at the John S. Glas Fieldhouse in 1997.
Bemidji State notables:
• BSU picked up its first WCHA series sweep of the season, Dec. 15-16, winning the opener, 5-1, over UAA, before a 4-0 shutout. The Beavers moved to 7-6-5 overall and 4-4-4-2 in WCHA play to slide up into a tie for sixth place in the league standings.
• Following the sweep, BSU is unbeaten in its last five games (2-0-3), establishing its longest unbeaten streak since a 7-0-1 streak Oct. 28-Nov. 18 of last season.
• Jay Dickman led the Beavers to a 5-1 victory Friday netting three goals and an assist for his second hat trick of the 2017-18 season and as a Beaver. He is one of just two players across the nation to have two hat tricks this season.
•The last time BSU had a player with multiple hat tricks in a single season was Brendan Cook during the 2003-04 campaign.
• Prior to Dickman’s first three-goal night, just it had been four years and 17 days since the last Beaver, Markus Gerbrandt, posted a hat trick. Last night’s hat trick followed his first by just 27 days.
• Dickman’s career-high 10 goals this season leads the Beavers and more than doubles the junior’s career goal total (19).
• Senior Kyle Bauman added four assists in the Dec. 15 win. In addition to it being a single-game high in both points and assists, he is the first BSU player with four assists since Brendan Harms Nov. 19, 2016.
•Before Dec. 15. the last time BSU had two players with at least four points in a single game was Dec. 3, 2005 when Tyler Scofield (0-4=4) and Luke Erickson (4-1=5) teamed up to lead BSU to an 8-1 victory over Niagara.
• Senior defender Carter Struthers posted a career-high two assists Dec. 15 to mark his first multi-point night as a Beaver.
• Brendan Harris scored a goal Dec. 16, marking an end to a 12-game goal scoring droub (Oct. 13).
• Myles Fitzgerald logged his first game-winning goal of the season Saturday. In BSU’s seven 2017-18 wins, seven different players have scored game winners.
• Since missing five games due to injury, M. Fitzgerald has posted four goals and an assist in four games. He enters the second half of the season riding a four-game point streak and a three-game goal scoring streak.
• In the nine games since Nov. 11, Bauman has registered 12 assists. His 13 helpers this season match a career-high set in 2015-16 and lead BSU this season.
• BSU is 5-3-3 at home in 2017-18 and has averaged 3.36 goals per game, while netting 2.71 per game on the road. BSU’s special teams on home ice have been tremendous. Its power-play unit is 11-for-42 (.262) and its penalty-kill squad is 32-for-35 (.914).
• Bitzer enters the second half of the season with 2,740 saves. Dec. 15 he surpassed Grady Hunt, who had 2,717 saves (2000-04), to move into second place on BSU’s all-time saves list. All-time leader Steve O’Shea has the BSU record with 3,065 stops.
• At 55-44-15 in his BSU career, Bitzer is tied with Steve O’Shea for seventh on BSU’s all-time victories list and is in sole possession of the BSU Division I-era victories lead.
• His 19 career shutouts is a BSU all-time record and stands as the mark for career shuts for a WCHA goaltender. In addition he ranks third on the NCAA all-time shuts list.
• BSU’s opponents have been the first to score in 12 of its 18 games this season. BSU is 4-5-3 in those games.
• The BSU penalty-kill unit was 5-for-5 Dec. 15-16 to move to 53-of-58 in 2017-18. The Beavers rank third in the country (.914) for the nation’s most efficient unit. At 36-of-39 (.923) BSU leads the WCHA.
• BSU was 2-for-9 on the power-play versus UAA. BSU is 16-of-68 (.235) on the season and is 12-of-48 (.250) in WCHA play to rank second.
• BSU has allowed three or more goals nine times this season and is 1-7-1 in those games.
• This season BSU’s leading scorer, Kyle Bauman has been tremendous at home. He has a team-best 15 points (5g-10a) in 11 games at Sanford Center.
• Following the break, BSU will return to Sanford Center to host Alabama-Huntsville for a two-game WCHA series. BSU is 47-30-5 in a series that and got its start in 1994 and is 26-9-2 versus the Chargers in Bemidji.
• BSU opens the series unbeaten in the last five (4-0-1) at home versus UAH.
• Gerry Fitzgerald (4g-2a) and Kyle Bauman (3g-3a) each have six points versus UAH in their careers with Bauman credited for a game-winning goal.
• Michael Bitzer is 4-1-1 versus UAH all-time with a 1.49 GAA and a .928 save percentage with two shouts versus the Chargers.