BEMIDJI, Minn. – Three members of the Bemidji State University Men’s Hockey team will lace up their skates this week to participate in National Hockey League development camps. Senior goaltender Michael Bitzer and sophomore defenseman Zach Whitecloud will travel to El Segundo, Calif., for the L.A. Kings’ camp, while BSU newcomer Brendan Harris will participate in his hometown Vegas Golden Knights' inaugural camp.
The camps, which begin Tuesday and run through the end of the week, feature young talent within the organization’s system, the team’s newest draft picks and other non-roster camp invites. Development camps typically include on-ice team practices, group and position skills sessions as well as off-ice testing, strength training and other activities, and often culminate with team scrimmages.
In 39 appearances and an NCAA-high 2,355.22 minutes between the pipes in 2016-17, Bitzer, a Moorhead, Minn., native, compiled a record of 22-14-3. He made 912 saves on 979 shots faced for a .932 save percentage and the nation’s best goals against average (1.71) to go with a NCAA-best six shutouts. The Academic All-WCHA pick and WCHA Scholar-Athlete honoree backstopped a BSU defense that ranked second in the country with a goals allowed per game mark of 1.93 and a penalty-kill unit that was among the top two in the country all season (.880). At the conclusion of the season, Bitzer was named to the All-WCHA First Team en route to being voted as the league’s Player of the Year and earning a spot on the CCM All-America West First Team. In addition, he was a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award and was one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top goaltender
Whitecloud, a WCHA All-Rookie Team selection and native of Brandon, Manitoba, made an immediate impact on the Beavers. The freshman led all BSU defensemen and rookies in scoring with 17 points (3g-14a) and was second on the team in assist scoring. With 13 points (1g-12a) coming in WCHA play, the rookie ranked 16th among all WCHA defensemen and 12th among league freshmen in scoring. A member of BSU’s top power-play unit from day one, Whitecloud was second on the team in power-play scoring as 14 (2g-12a) of his 16 points have came on the man advantage, while he ranked fourth among all WCHA scorers with 12 (1g-11a) power-play points in league play. In addition, he also finished second on the team with 59 blocked shots.
Harris, a native of Henderson, Nev., recently completed his second full season in the British Columbia Hockey League and fourth season with the Wenatchee Wild. In 57 games for the Wild, Harris collected 23 goals and 75 assists to win the league’s scoring title with 98 points. In addition, the BCHL First Team All-Star, MVP and winner of the Bob Fenton Trophy for the league’s most sportsmanlike player collected 19 more assists than anyone to lead the BCHL. Averaging more than 1.7 points per game, he has logged a point in 48-of-57 games and has posted 32 multi-point games, including a five-assist night Sept. 1.
Harris led Wenatchee to a 45-9-4-0 record en route to the BCHL’s regular-season championship, but was defeated by the Chilliwack Chiefs in the second round of the Fred Page Cup Playoffs.
The Beavers officially open the 2017-18 season Oct. 13-14 when they face NCAA Division I runner up University of Minnesota Duluth in a non-conference home-and-home series. The teams open the two-game set at Sanford Center Friday, with the rubber match set for AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minn. Both games are set to start at 7:07 p.m.
For more information on the Bemidji State men’s hockey program, follow the Beavers on Twitter (@BSUBeavers or @BSUMHockey), like them on Facebook (facebook.com/BSUBeavers) or sign up for the TXTUpdates from BSUBeavers.com text-messaging system through the "Multimedia" pull down menu on the main page of BSUBeavers.com.
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).