Bakala backstops the Beavers to WCHA Final Five
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Bakala backstops the Beavers to WCHA Final Five

OMAHA, Neb. (Quest Center Omaha) -- Buoyed by a 41-save performance by junior goaltender Dan Bakala (Calgary, Alberta), the 10-seeded Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team used a pair of goals by Matt Read (Sr., F, Ilderton, Ontario) and another from Jamie MacQueen (Jr., F, St. Thomas, Ontario) to down three-seeded University of Nebraska-Omaha, 3-1, and advance to the Red Baron WCHA Final Five at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. March 17-19.

Out shot by a significant margin for the second straight night, 43-20, the opportunistic Beavers scored one goal each period to defeat the nationally-ranked Mavericks on their own ice in consecutive games and earn an opening round win in the best-of-three series.

The Mavericks took an early lead capping an up-and-down first 10 minutes of play when Alex Hudson fired a shot off Bakala and onto the stick of Rich Purslow, who tapped it in at the 9:32 mark.

The Beavers used their power-play to even the score two minutes later (11:34).  The first of Read’s two goals found its way through traffic from the point.  The senior was assisted by MacQueen and Radoslav Illo (Fr., F, Bystrica, Slovakia) on the play as the Beavers’ scored on the power play for the first time since their March 4 game versus Minnesota.

Despite trailing UNO 16-3 in shots on goal in the first period, BSU skated of the ice tied Mavericks 1-1 and just as in game one of the series, BSU’s goaltender played a big role in that.  Bakala’s final save of the period capped a flurry of shots with traffic in front.  The junior made a save on the left post, but failed to coral the rebound.  A shot was fired towards a virtually open net from the slot but Bakala dove back and used his outstretched stick to stop the puck just short of the goal line.

MacQueen put the Beavers up 2-1 at the 8:15 mark of the period on a pass across the slot from Shea Walters (Jr., F, Hibbing, Minn.).  Senior Ryan Cramer (F, International Falls, Minn.) was also credited with an assist.

With one-goal lead in hand, Read lit the lamp for the second time of the evening finishing a breakaway with a nice move to beat the UNO goaltender John Falkner.  The senior’s career-high, and team-leading 21st goal of the season turned out to be a necessity down the stretch.

UNO would make things interesting in the game’s final moments.  The hosts pulled their goaltender with just over 90 seconds left to get an extra attacker on the ice.  The move paid off as Ryan Walters pushed the puck into the net from a scrum in front of the crease with just 8.4 seconds remaining.  But the Beavers would rise to the occasion as Read won the ensuing face-off into BSU’s offensive zone and the final horn sounded effectively ending the Maverick rally and the UNO 2010-11 campaign at 21-15-2.

Bakala earned the win improving to 13-12-4 in the season, allowing two goals while turning away 41 UNO shots.  He finished the weekend with 87 saves. His counterpart, John Falkner, conceded three goals and made 17 saves in the loss.  He falls to 20-14-2.

Special teams was key to the Beavers’ 14th win of the season.  BSU was 1-of-2 on the man advantage, but more importantly, held the Mavericks scoreless on all four of their power-play chances.

Bemidji State, now unbeaten in six games versus UNO this season (5-0-1), takes a 6-5-1 lead in the all-time series and improves to 4-5-1 in games played in Omaha, Neb. all-time.

The Beavers, 14-17-5 on the season, a first-year member of the WCHA, will make its debut in the Final Five. Once the opening round series are completed, league officials will re-seed the remaining teams 1-6 according to their regular-season finishes. The No. 1 and 2 seeds will receive a bye Thursday, while the No. 3 and 6 seeded teams will open the event in the afternoon and 4 and 5 teams play the nightcap.