Bemidji State makes history with CHA Tournament sweep
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Beavers become first team in current Division I conferences to win league tournament without allowing a goal

BEMIDJI, Minn. - The Bemidji State men’s ice hockey program knew it had accomplished something special when the final buzzer sounded in a 3-0 victory over Alabama-Huntsville in the championship game of the 2005 College Hockey America Tournament. After all, the victory ended two years of title-game frustration for the Beavers and propelled them to their first NCAA Tournament appearance as a Division I program.

However, when coupled with a 6-0 shutout of Air Force in the CHA semifinals, Bemidji State unknowingly accomplished a feat never before seen. The back-to-back shutouts made BSU the first team in any of the six current Division I conferences to win a league post-season tournament without allowing a goal.

“We had two games and we played well for two games,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said of the accomplishment. “It’s a tribute to the way we’re playing defensively right now. At this time of year, you have to be on your ‘A’ game defensively.

“This is a feather in our cap,” Serratore said. “We’re happy to have any kind of record. Bemidji State hockey has done a lot of things over the years in terms of setting records at the collegiate level, and this is a nice achievement for us.”

The remarkable feat was made possible by the play of 2005 CHA Tournament MVP Matt Climie (Leduc, Alberta), BSU’s freshman phenom who is in the midst of one of the hottest streaks by a goaltender in school history.

Climie posted BSU’s first shutout in 36 games in its series against Alabama-Huntsville and coupled with the shutout of Air Force threw the first back-to-back shutouts in College Hockey America Tournament history. Climie extended his personal scoreless streak to a career-long 171:06, the second-longest run by a single goaltender in Bemidji State’s Division I era. He has not surrendered a goal since 7:54 of the first period in BSU’s 4-1 win at Air Force on March 5 - a span of eight consecutive scoreless periods.

The back-to-back shutouts lowered Climie’s season goals-against average to a BSU all-time record low 1.68, which currently has him ranked fourth in the nation.

“Matt Climie is seeing the puck extremely well,” Serratore said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence and is in a zone. But defensively, we haven’t given up a lot of second shots over the last month, month and a half. If you look even to our Minnesota-Duluth series, we held them to 36 shots for the whole weekend.

“Our team has really torqued it up defensively, which at this time of year is a very positive thing. Everybody, from our forwards to our defensemen to our goalie, is seeing the puck well.”

In 1999-2000, Michigan State, riding the efforts of future Hobey Baker Award-winning goaltender Ryan Miller, came closest to matching BSU’s feat. Miller, then a freshman, led the Spartans to shutouts in both championship-round games of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament. He blanked Notre Dame, 4-0, in the semifinals and Nebraska-Omaha, 6-0, in the championship game en route to Tournament MVP honors. But in the first round, Michigan State surrendered three goals in a two-game sweep of Miami (Ohio), capturing 6-2 and 5-1 victories to advance.

Climie’s 3-0 win over Alabama-Huntsville stands as one of only 11 shutouts in the championship game of a traditional-format post-season tournament in the six Division I men’s ice hockey conferences.

Michigan State’s shutout of Nebraska-Omaha was the first of two consecutive CCHA title-game shutouts for Miller; he also blanked Michigan, 2-0, in 2001, en route to his Hobey Baker Award. Miller’s shutouts are two of five in the final game of the CCHA Tournament since the league moved away from a two-game total-goals series to decide its champion in 1982. The others came in 1994 (Michigan), 1993 (Lake Superior State), and 1984 (Michigan State).

The ECAC Hockey League has never had a team win its championship rounds - semifinals and championship - without allowing a goal, and in the league’s 43-year history has seen its championship game decided via shutout just three times - by St. Lawrence in 1988, Harvard in 1994 and St. Lawrence again in 2000.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association has held a post-season tournament since the conference formed in 1960, and since 1988 has used a traditional playoff format with a single finals game to determine its champion. No WCHA team has won that league’s tournament championship game via shutout.

Hockey East has held its post-season tournament since 1985, and just once has seen its champion win with a shutout in the title game. New Hampshire defeated Boston University, 1-0, in overtime of the 2003 finals after posting a 5-4 win over Massachusetts in the semis.

Likewise, no Atlantic Hockey program has shut out its opponents in a run through that league’s tournament. Holy Cross came the closest, out-scoring its opponents, 13-1, in the inaugural 2004 Atlantic Hockey hournament. It defeated Sacred Heart, 4-0, in the championship game after posting a 5-1 win over Quinnipiac in the semifinals and a 5-0 win over American International in the quarters.

Bemidji State awaits the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday, March 20 to discover the matchups for its first NCAA Tournament berth as a Division I program. BSU will take a record 23-12-1 mark into the Tournament as the automatic qualifier out of College Hockey America. BSU’s 23 wins are a school Division I-era record and second-most by any team in CHA history. The Beavers captured the CHA regular-season championship with a 16-4-0 record, tying their own CHA record for league wins in a season, and won their first CHA Tournament championship last weekend. BSU enters the NCAA Tournament as the third team in the six-year history of CHA to win both the regular-season and league tournament titles.