BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team is back at Sanford Center this weekend to continue its current four-game homestand with a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series versus Lake Superior State University.
The Beavers open the series 2-5-2 overall and 1-4-1 in league play, and look to build on their 6-3 victory over University of Alaska, Nov. 14, to make a move in the standings this weekend versus the Lakers.
This season, the Beavers have been led offensively by Gerry Fitzgerald (6g-3a). The sophomore has scored six of the team’s 23 goals, which includes a pair on the power-play. Defender Graeme McCormack, who is third on the team with seven points (3g-4a), is another driving force on the Beavers’ power-play unit netting all seven of his points on the man advantage. Converting 12-of-44 power-play opportunities this season (.273), and 8-of-33 (.242) in league play, BSU ranks seventh in the country and second among WCHA teams in power-play efficiency. Michael Bitzer has shouldered the bulk of the goaltending responsibility this season, posting a 1-5-2 record with a 2.74 goals against average and a .887 save percentage in 482:16 between the pipes. Junior Reid Mimmack was in net for the Beavers’ last outing and made 20 saves to earn his first collegiate win. He is 1-0-0 on the season with a 3.00 goals against average and a .870 save percentage.
Lake Superior State arrives at Sanford Center toting an overall record of 2-8-2, while the team seeks its first win in league play (0-2-2). The Lakers are without a win in their last seven games (0-5-2) and open the series after being swept by Arizona State University (L, 3-2 and L, 3-2 (OT)) in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. last weekend.
To say the Lakers are a young team is an understatement. The team’s top six point producers and both goaltenders are underclassmen. Sophomore J.T. Henke paces a LSSU squad ranking ninth in the league at 1.50 goals per game with five goals and eight points (5g-3a). Freshman forward Anthony Nellis is the team’s top assist man with five helpers, while Owen Headrick has been the Lakers’ top man on the power-play, netting two goals. Sophomore goaltender Gordon Defiel has made appearances in eight of LSSU’s 12 games, however, he and newcomer Nick Kossoff have split time in net over the team’s last four series. Kossoff leads the Lakers with a 1-3-0 record, a 2.46 goals against average and a .899 save percentage in four appearances.
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 49 previous occasions with the Lakers owning a 26-21-2 advantage and a 12-10-1 mark on the Beavers’ home ice. Last year, the Lakers took the season series with 1-0 and 4-2 victories at Taffy Abel Arena in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Jan. 16-17, ending the Beavers’ seven-game (4-0-3) unbeaten streak.
Tom Serratore is in his 15th season as head coach of his Alma Mater (‘86) and has an overall record of 229-229-63. 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 second season at LSSU, Damon Whitten has a record of 10-36-4 as a collegiate head coach. A graduate of Michigan State University, Whitten was a four-time letterwinner and led the Spartans to three CCHA titles and two appearances in the Frozen Four. Prior to joining the LSSU staff, he was an assistant coach at MSU, Alaska-Anchorage, Wayne State and, most recently, at Michigan Tech for four seasons.
Bemidji State Notables
• Bemidji State split a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series with Alaska Nov. 13-14, dropping a 4-3 decision Saturday before a 6-3 victory Saturday. The Beavers move to 2-5-2 on the season and 1-4-1 in WCHA play.
• The 4-3 loss Friday loss snaped a three-game winning streak for BSU over UA reaching back to a 4-0 win Jan. 25, 2014 in Fairbanks.
• BSU’s win Saturday snapped and seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) dating back to a 3-2 victory over then-No. 2 Minnesota Duluth in the season opener, Oct. 10.
• In his 15th season as head coach of the Beavers, Tom Serratore has a career record of 229-229-63 (.500) and is now 4-3-1 all-time versus UA.
• Brendan Harms had a hand in all three of the Beavers’ goals last Friday, netting a goal and adding a pair of assists. The outing established a career-high three points, while it matched a career-best two assists.
• Harms’ first assist of the night marked the 30th of his career. He leads all current Beavers with six helpers this season and with 31 career assists.
• With another goal Saturday, Harms has now recorded all eight of his points (2g-6a) on home ice to lead all BSU players. He has logged a point in five of BSU’s six home contests this season.
• Gerry Fitzgerald logged his fifth career multi-point game to open the series, recording two assists. He now leads BSU with nine points (6g-3a) and has logged a point in six of BSU’s nine games played.
• A year ago, Gerry Fitzgerald was fourth on the team in scoring and led all BSU rookies, with 19 points (7g-12a).
• Both Harms and Leo Fitzgerald recorded each their first goal of the season Friday night.
• The BSU power-play unit was 1-for-7 Friday and 3-for-6 Saturday to move to 12-for-44 (.273) overall and 8-of-33 (.242) in league play. BSU ranks seventh in the country and second among WCHA teams in power-play efficiency.
• With seven power-play points this season (3g-4a), captain Graeme McCormack leads BSU and is currently tied for fourth in NCAA Division I power-play scoring.
• After posting a team-best four blocked shots Friday and a total of seven in the series, McCormack has a team-best 15 to rank fourth in the WCHA.
• Through its first nine games, BSU has allowed four short-handed goals to lead the country. That surpasses BSU’s short-handed goals allowed totals from nine of the 16 seasons played at the NCAA Division I level (since 1999-2000).
• The BSU power-play has been at its best at Sanford Center this season. The Beavers are 11-for-32 (.344) on the man advantage on home ice, while they are 1-for-12 (.083) in three road games.
• The Bemidji State penalty-kill unit continues to be a strength for the Beavers in 2015-16. On the season, BSU has surrendered four power-play goals in 38 opponent opportunities. At nearly 90 percent (.895), BSU is ninth in the country.
• In WCHA play, BSU’s penalty-kill is 23-of-26 for a league-best 88.5 percent kill rate.
• In BSU’s five losses this season, it has been out scored 8-0 in the third period. In its two win and two ties, BSU has out scored its opponents 8-2.
• Saturday marked the 2015-16 debut of Reid Mimmack and his first regular-season appearance since March 7, 2014. He made 20 saves and allowed three goals in the first victory of his collegiate career.
• Daniel Billett logged his first collegiate point with an assist Saturday, while Jay Dickman scored his first collegiate goal Saturday.
• After open the season 0-5-0 when scoring first, BSU took a 1-0 lead Saturday and finished with a 6-3 victory.
• BSU now shifts its focus to Lake Superior State. The Beavers and Lakers have a series dating back to 1966 and spans 40 games. LSSU owns a 26-21-2 lead in the series and a 12-10-1 mark versus the Beavers in Bemidji.
• BSU looks to shake a two-game losing skid versus the Lakers this weekend. Last season the Beavers lost 1-0 and4-2 in Sault Ste. Marie.
• Cory Ward Leads all current BSU player with eight career points (4g-4a), including a game-winner, in eight career games versus LSSU.