BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team (14-8-6; 11-5-4-2 WCHA) returns to Sanford Center for the first time since January 12 and just the second and third games of 2018 this weekend as it hosts Lake Superior State University (6-20-4; 4-15-3-0 WCHA). The Beavers, who have lost just twice since Dec. 2 (9-2-4) and clinched a spot in the 2018 WCHA Playoffs last week, look to extend their current four-game (3-0-1) unbeaten streak versus the Lakers and remain in line to host their first round playoff match up.
The Beavers split a WCHA series at the University of Alabama-Huntsville a week ago. After dropping the opener, 5-1, BSU got two goals from defender Justin Baudry to bounce back with a 5-1 victory of its own. With a career-high 27 points (8g-18a) Bauman leads the Beavers in scoring, which includes a team-best 18 assists, while Jay Dickman has a team- and career-high 13 goals. Newcomers Charlie Combs and Adam Brady have played big roles in BSU’s recent success. In BSU’s last eight games, which includes its Jan. 5-6 series versus LSSU, Combs has a team-high four goals and six points, while Brady has accounted for seven assists. Senior goaltender Michael Bitzer has shouldered the bulk of the Beavers’ goaltending duties. Second on BSU’s all-time goaltending victories list to Blane Comstock (70) with 63 wins and trailing only Steve O’Shea (3,065) on BSU’s all-time saves list (2,943), Bitzer is 14-7-6 this season. He own a goals against average of 2.14 and a .911 save percentage. In addition, he has backstopped a penalty-kill unit that enters the weekend second in the country snuffing out 81 of its opponents’ 91 man advantage opportunities (.890).
The Lakers arrive in Bemidji, Minn. having dropped seven of their last eight games. LSSU was swept by Bowling Green a week ago, 5-3 and 3-2. Senior J.T. Henke leads the Lakers with 24 points (8g-16a), which includes a team-high 16 helpers. Sophomore Max Humitz has scored a team-best 11 goals, including four on the power play and a game-winner. Junior goaltender Nick Kossoff (5-12-2) has played in 23 games this season and leads the team with a goals against average of 3.22 and a save percentage of .906.
This weekend marks the continuation of a rivalry dating back to the 1960s. From 1966-1973 Bemidji State and Lake Superior State met on a yearly basis as members of the International Collegiate Hockey Association. In addition, the teams have a storied national championship history. BSU defeated the Lakers for NAIA national titles in 1968, 1969 and 1970. In all, BSU and LSSU have met on 57 previous occasions with the Lakers owning a 28-25-4 advantage and a 13-11-3 mark on the Beavers’ home ice. The Beavers and Lakers met just a month ago in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., with BSU skating away with a sweep (3-0 and 6-3) to extend its current unbeaten streak versus LSSU to four games (3-0-1).
Bemidji State notables:
• Bemidji State went 1-1-0 at Alabama-Huntsville, Jan. 26-27. The Beavers dropped their first WCHA contests since Dec. 1, 5-1, Friday, before a 5-1 bounce back victory over the Chargers. The Beavers move to 14-8-6 overall and 11-5-4-2 in WCHA play to own fourth place in the league standings.
• Friday’s loss snapped an eight-game WCHA wining streak and an unbeaten streak of 10 league games.
• Aaron Miller provided the scoring for BSU Friday, netting his second goal as a Beaver and first since Nov. 11.
• Miller added a goal and an assist Saturday. He has four points (2g-2a) in BSU’s last four contests. He leads all BSU rookies and sits fifth on the team with nine helpers.
• Assisting on BSU’s goal Friday and another Saturday, defender Dan Billett posted his sixth and seventh assists of the season. Saturday’s helper marked his fourth straight game with an assist. Jan. 19, he logged an assist to snap a 13-game streak without a point—the second-longest of his career.
• Leo Fitzgerald also assisted on Miller’s goal Friday. It was his first since the 2016-17 season finale.
• BSU’s leading scorer Kyle Bauman netted a point in Saturday’s win to end a three-game scoring drought—his longest since a four-game string from Nov. 5-19, 2016. He has 21 points (4g-17a) in the 20 games since Nov. 10. With 27 points (9g-18a), Bauman not only leads BSU in scoring and assists, he has set career-highs in both categories.
• Saturday freshman Brad Johnson posted a milestone. He logged an assist—his first point in his seventh collegiate game.
• Defender Justin Baudry also played a significant role in Saturday’s victory. He logged is first two-goal night as a Beavers, sparking a four-goal third period with his second game-winner of his BSU career.
• Baudry’s second goal Saturday stood as the 10th of his collegiate career. The junior has a career-best seven goals and 14 points this season.
• BSU is now 7-4-3 on the road this season. The Beavers have scored 2.79 goals per game, while allowing 2.21. BSU’s power-play unit is 13-of-56 (.232) and its penalty-kill unit has allowed just five goals (44-49/.898).
• BSU is 11-0-1 in the 12 games it has led after two periods this season, which includes Saturday’s 5-1 win.
• BSU has held its opponents under 20 shots six times this season. BSU is 5-0-1 in those games. Saturday’s 12-shot performance by UAH stands as the lowest since BSU surrendered just 11 to now-defunct Wayne State, March 15, 2008.
• In 15 games since Dec. 2, Michael Bitzer is 9-2-4 with a 1.70 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. He leads the nation in wins and ties (4) during that span. In BSU’s first 13 games, Bitzer was 4-5-2 with a 2.70 GAA and a .899 save percentage.
• Bitzer enters the series finale with 2,943 saves. Currently second on BSU’s all-time saves list, Bitzer is 122 stops behind all-time leader Steve O’Shea who has the BSU record with 3,065.
• At 63-48-17 in his BSU career, Bitzer surpassed Jim Scanlan (1978-82) and Chuck Scanlon (1971-75) for second place on BSU’s all-time wins list with 63 wins. BSU’s all-time leader is Blane Comstock (1967-71) with 70.
• His 21 career shutouts is a BSU and WCHA all-time record. In addition, Friday he surpassed Vermont’s Joe Fallon (2005-08) for second on the NCAA all-time shut outs list and sits five behind Michigan State’s Ryan Miller, who recorded 26 shutouts from 1999-02.
• The BSU penalty-kill unit was 4-for-5 versus Ala.-Huntsville to move to 81-of-91 in 2017-18. The Beavers are second in the country for the nation’s most efficient unit at .890. At 59-of-65 (.908) BSU leads the WCHA.
• BSU was 2-for-9 on the power play at UAH. BSU is 25-of-107 (.234) this season and is second in the WCHA at 20-for-82 (.244).
• This season, BSU has just one win when failing to score three goals (1-5-4)—a 2-0 shutout victory at Farris State, Jan. 19.
• Friday’s game marked the fifth time this season BSU has allowed five or more goals. BSU is 0-5-0 in those contests.
• BSU has allowed three-or-more goals 12 times this season and is 2-8-2 in those games.
• Gerry Fitzgerald missed his second and third straight games Jan. 26-27, due to illness.
• Now 5-2-1 in January this season, BSU continues solid play in the first month of a calendar year. Since 1999-2000, January has
been BSU’s best month. The Beavers are 65-51-13 (.554) in January.
• Bemidji State has lost back-to-back games only two times this season, Nov. 10-11 versus Minnesota State (5-2 and 8-6) and Nov. 24 and Dec. 1 at Princeton (4-1) and at Bowling Green (3-1).
• BSU returns to Sanford Center for he first time since Jan. 12 this weekend as it hosts Lake Superior State in a two-game WCHA series. BSU trails the Lakers 28-25-4 in a series that got its start in 1966. BSU is 11-13-3 all time when hosting LSSU and has not been beaten my LSSU at Sanford Center since Nov. 20, 2015 (1-0-2).
• The Beavers are unbeaten in their last four meetings (3-0-1) with the Lakers, which includes a 3-0 shutouts and 6-3 victory in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Jan. 5-6.
• No current Beaver has had more success versus the Lakers than Kyle Bauman. The senior has seven points (3g-4a) including a pair of short-handed goals and a game-winning goal.
• Bauman has four points (2g-2a) in the two previous meetings this season.
• Michael Bitzer is 4-4-1 in nine career appearances versus LSSU. He has a lifetime .911 save percentage and a 1.78 goals against average.