BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team continues its 2015-16 nonconference season this weekend when it clashes with No. 1 University of North Dakota in a home-and-home series. The Beavers host UND at Sanford Center Friday before the teams travel to Grand Forks, N.D. and Ralph Engelstad Arena Saturday to wrap up the two-game set.
For the second consecutive week, Bemidji State will go head-to-head with one of the nation’s elite teams. After defeating then-No. 2/3 University of Minnesota Duluth, 3-2, at Sanford Center to open the season Saturday, BSU now welcomes the nation’s top-ranked team in UND. Since Bemidji State made the jump to the NCAA Division I level prior to the 1999-2000 season, the Beavers are 3-9-0 versus the nation’s No. 1 team, which includes an 0-2-0 mark versus UND.
Head Coach Tom Serratore opened 2015-16 with seven of his top eight point-producers and over 80 percent of BSU’s 2014-15 goal-scoring production. Junior Charlie O’Connor netted a career-high 11 goals a year ago to lead the team and has started 2015-16 right where he left off, potting his first goal of the season with just 22 seconds left to lift BSU over Minnesota Duluth. Brendan Harms, a 2014-15 All-WCHA pick who scored two goals to propel BSU to a season-opening victory over UND a year ago, finished second on the team with 21 points (10g-11a) despite missing nine games due to injury and already has an assist to his name this season. Bemidji State also returns 2014-15 WCHA Rookie of the Year in goaltender Michael Bitzer. Now a sophomore, he finished his rookie season with a 14-11-3 record to accompany a .929 save percentage and a goals against average of 1.80 to rank among the nation’s top goaltenders. He enters the series with a 1-0-0 record, a 2.00 goals against average and a .933 save percentage.
North Dakota totes a 1-0-1 record to Bemidji Friday after a 5-2 victory over Lake Superior State and a 1-1 tie with Maine in the IceBreaker Tournament. UND is led offensively by senior Bryn Chyzyk, who has two of the team’s six goals this season. Fellow senior Drake Caggiula and junior defender Troy Stecher each have a pair of assists to round out UND’s top scorers. In the crease, sophomore Cam Johnson looks to shoulder the bulk of UND’s goaltending duties this year following the departure of Zane McIntyre. Johnson is 1-0-1 this season with a 1.44 goals against average and a .935 save percentage after getting just two appearances and 43 minutes in net as a rookie.
In a series that dates back to 1970, North Dakota holds a 27-3-3 advantage over BSU. The Beavers are 2-8-1 when hosting UND in Bemidji, Minn., while they are 2-18-2 on UND’s home ice in Grand Forks, N.D., which includes a 5-1 BSU victory to open the 2014-15 season at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Despite the win-loss differential, five of the last nine meetings between the teams have been decided by one goal or less, and BSU is 2-5-2 in those games.
Tom Serratore is in his 15th season as head coach of his Alma Mater (‘86) and has an overall record of 228-224-61. Serratore’s teams have won five CHA regular-season championships and made trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010, with a 2009 appearance in the Frozen Four. He is a five-time CHA Coach of the Year recipient and was the Spencer Penrose National Coach of the Year Runner-up in 2009.
Now in his 10th season on the UND bench in two different stints, Brad Berry is in his first season as head coach. A graduate of UND, Berry became the sixth former player to take the reins of the program when he was named as the 16th head coach in program history May 18, 2015. A four-year letterwinner for Gino Gasparini, he totaled 74 points for UND from 1983-86 before embarking on his professional hockey career, during which he played 241 games over eight years with Winnipeg, Minnesota and Dallas.
Bemidji State notables:
• The Bemidji State men’s hockey team opened its 60th year of hockey by defeating then-No. 2-3 Minnesota Duluth Saturday. After Friday’s game was postponed due to a power outage at AMSOIL Arena, BSU earned a 3-2 victory over UMD.
• Charlie O’Connor’s goal with 22 seconds left in regulation, not only stood as his first of the year, it also marked just the second game-winning goal of the junior’s career. His last came Jan. 30, 2015 versus Bowling Green.
• Just one game into the season, O’Connor is back atop the BSU goal scoring list where he finished the 2014-15 season after posing a career-best 11 goals.
• Gerry Fitzgerald also scored in the game. Last season, he netted 19 points (7g-12a) seeing time in all 38 games to lead all BSU rookies and rank fourth on the team in scoring. He led the Beavers with four game-wining goals.
• Brendan Harms posted an assist in Saturday’s opener. Despite missing nine games due to injury, he finished the 2014-15 season second on the team in scoring with 21 points (10g-11a) marking his second straight season with at least 20 points.
• In 19 appearances and 1564:25 minutes between the pipes, Michael Bitzer was 14-9-3 in 2014-15, with a .932 save percentage and 1.76 goals against average to go with four shutouts. He was the first BSU goaltender to record at least 14 wins since Dan Bakala posted 14 in 2010-11, the first rookie since Matt Climie in 2004-05 to record four shutouts during his freshman season.
• Following the win over No. 2/3 Minnesota Duluth, BSU is 1-0-0 on the season when facing a ranked opponent. BSU was 5-10-1 in 2014-15 against ranked opponents.
• BSU was 1-for-4 on the power play in its opener (.250). The Beavers finished the 2014-15 season 19 of 151 (.126).
• John Parker is leads the team with one goal, matching his total from 2014-15.
• John Parker had a breakout junior season. He registered 12 points (7g-5a) and was one of only two BSU players to log an even-strength goal, a power-play goal and a short-handed goal in 2014-15. BSU was 5-1-0 when he scored a goal.
• BSU was a perfect 4 for 4 on the penalty-kill Saturday. BSU finished the 2014-15 season 126 for 147 (.857) and was 94 for 106 in WCHA play to sit second in the league.
• Ian Janco, Jay Dickman, Dillon Eichstadt, and Justin Baudry made their collegiate debuts Saturday versus Minnesota Duluth, with Janco posting an assist for his first point.
• Both sophomore Jordan Heller and Dillon Eichstadt hail from Bemidji, marking the first time two Bemidji natives have appeared on BSU’s roster since Scott Johnson and Tim Donaghue in 1991-92.
• In the line up for the opener, Eichstadt became the 34th Bemidji native to wear the Green and White.
• In his 15th season as head coach of the Beavers, Tom Serratore has a career record of 228-224-61 (.503) and is 2-20-3 all-time versus UND.
• Serratore regains the services of his top two goal scorers from 2014-15 in Charlie O’Connor (11) and Brendan Harms (10). While 80 percent (81-of-101) of BSU’s goals return for 2015-16.
• Very few teams in the country put together a second half like Bemidji State’s 2014-15. From Jan. 23 through the end of the regular season, BSU was 9-2-2, won the North Star College Cup, defeated four top-10 opponents and grabbed a home playoff series for the first time since joining the WCHA in 2010-11.
• BSU is 3-26-3 all time versus North Dakota, but two of its wins and two of its ties in the series, dating back to 1970, have come since the 2011-12 season (2-5-2).
• In the Beavers’ last three appearances at Ralph Engelstad Arena, BSU is 1-1-1 and have outscored UND 9-4.
• Senior Markus Gerbrandt leads all current Beavers in success versus UND posting four points (2g-2a) in six career games. Right on his heels is junior Brendan Harms who has three points (2g-1a) in four games, which includes a two-goal performance to lead the Beavers to a 5-1 victory at Ralph Englestad Arena to open the 2014-15 season.
• Goaltender Michael Bitzer is 1-0-0 all-time versus UND with a 1.00 goals against average and a .962 save percentage.
• BSU is 0-2-0 when facing North Dakota as the nation’s top team. BSU is 3-9-0 versus the nation’s top team since it made the jump to the NCAA Division I level for the 1999-2000 season, which includes a victory over then-No. 1 Miami, 3-2, at Ralph Engelstad Arena Nov. 27, 2009.
• The Beavers are 4-4-2 versus NCHC teams, which includes a 2014-15 win over North Dakota.