BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team makes its first appearance at Sanford Center since Dec. 11-12 this weekend as it hosts NCAA Division I newcomer Arizona State University. The nonconference series marks the beginning of a new rivalry for the Beavers as the teams meet for the first of three series scheduled through the 2017-18 season.
The Beavers open the two-game set on the heels of a 10-day road trip to Alaska which saw the Beavers pull 7-of-8 points from the Nanooks and Seawolves. BSU hopes the road success carries over to the ice at Sanford Center. Riding a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) to welcome the Sun Devils, BSU is now 8-9-4 overall and 7-8-3 in league play to hold down fourth place in the league standings.
This season, the Beavers have been led offensively by Gerry Fitzgerald. The sophomore has accumulated 17 points, which includes a team-best and career-high 10 goals, despite missing four games due to injury in December. Brendan Harms leads the team with 11 assists and has 15 points to sit second on the team in scoring, while the trio of Graeme McCormack (6g-7a), Cory Ward (6g-7a) and Markus Gerbrandt (3g-10a) each have 13 points. McCormack has powered a BSU power-play unit ranking third in WCHA play (.208), posting 11 points on the man advantage (4g-7a). Sophomore Michael Bitzer was back in net last weekend and came out of Alaska with a pair of wins. After struggling to open the season, he is 2-0-1 in his last three starts with a 1.62 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. The Beavers break from WCHA play leading the league in goals scored (47), penalty-kill play (.884) and are second among league members in power-play performance (.227). BSU is 1-1-1 in nonconference play this season and is unbeaten versus non-league opponents at Sanford Center in 2015-16 (1-0-1).
Arizona State is 5-17-0 in its first full season at the Division I level. The Sun Devils look to shake a nine-game losing skid this weekend and seek their first win since a 3-2 win at Lake Superior State, Nov. 14 (0-11-2). Freshman Jordan Masters leads an ASU scoring attack averaging 1.73 goals per game with 19 points and a team-high eight goals. Rookie defender Joey Raatz has accumulated 12 assist to pace the team and is second in scoring with 14 points. Freshman Ryland Pashovitz has seen the bulk of time in net for the Sun Devils. He is 4-11-0 and leads the team with a .912 save percentage and 3.32 goals against average.
This weekend marks the first and second meetings between the Beavers and Arizona State, but will not be the last. BSU and Arizona State have an agreement to face each other in nonconference play through the 2017-18 season. Of the current 59 teams playing at the NCAA Division I level, Arizona State will be BSU’s 41st opponent.
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 eighth season on the Arizona State coaching staff, Greg Powers, leads the Sun Devils into a new era of NCAA Division I hockey on the heels of five consecutive ACHA National Tournament appearances and a 2013-14 ACHA Division I national title. Powers, who is in his sixth season at the reins of the ASU men’s hockey program has produced a 169-42-9 overall record, which includes 35-win seasons in 2012-13 and 2014-15 and has coached eight ACHA Division I All-Americans. A 1999 graduate of ASU, Powers was a three-time ACHA All-American goaltender for the Sun Devils as was named team MVP following the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.
Bemidji State notables:
• Bemidji State extended calendar year-opening unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1) with a WCHA road sweep at Alaska Anchorage, Jan. 8-9. The Beavers opened the series with a 6-3 victory Friday before posting a 5-1 win Saturday.
• The Beavers improved to 8-9-4 overall and 7-8-3 in WCHA play to move into fourth place in the league standings.
• The sweep was the Beavers’ second on the road this season. BSU had one road sweep during the 2014-15 season.
• In his 15th season as head coach of the Beavers, Tom Serratore has a career record of 235-232-65 (.501).
• Friday’s victory marked just the third time this season BSU has carried a lead into the third period. BSU is now 3-0-0 when leading to open the final 20 minutes of play.
• Nate Arentz scored the first short-handed goal of the season for BSU Friday. It was the first shortie of the junior’s career. BSU’s last SHG came off the stick of John Parker, March 6, 2015. Arentz added another Saturday to lead BSU (2).
• Michael Bitzer is 2-0-1 in his last three starts. He has stopped 71-of-76 shots faced (.934) and has a 1.62 goals against average in 185 minutes between the pipes in those games.
• Saturday’s two-goal night for Jordan Heller marked the first of his collegiate career. He posted three points (2g-1a) in the series, more than doubling his career scoring total (4g-1a).
• Leo Fitzgerald’s (3g-7a) seventh assist of 2015-16 Friday stood as the 20th point of his BSU career and matched his 2014-15 scoring total (2g-8a).
• G. Fitzgerald posted his team-leading 10th goal of the season in Saturday’s victory. He established a new single-season high for goals scored and added to his team-leading scoring total of 17 points (10g-7a).
• Brendan Harms logged his team-leading 11th assist Friday. With 36 career assists, no current Beaver has more helpers.
• Senior defender Graeme McCormack leads all BSU blueliners and is tied for third on the team with 13 points (6g-7a). He has a team-best 10 points (4g-6a) on the power play. He is tied for 15th on the national power-play scoring list.
• McCormack has a team-high 43 blocked shots to rank second in the WCHA and rank 13th in the country.
• The Beavers have averaged 4.5 goals in their eight wins and 1.56 goals per game in their nine losses.
• The Beavers are 6-3-2 on the road in 2015-16. BSU averages 2.91 goals, while surrendering 2.00 goals per game. BSU has posted a .175 (7-of-40) mark on the man advantage and a .896 (43-of-48) penalty-kill clip.
• The Beavers are 2-6-2 at Sanford Center this season, averaging 2.40 while surrendering 2.90 goals per game. BSU seeks its first win on home ice since 6-3 victory over Alaska, Nov. 14. The Beavers are 0-3-1 at home since that win
• BSU’s power-play has been outstanding at home, converting 13-of-48 (.271) man advantage chances at Sanford Center.
• The BSU power-play unit is 20-of-88 (.227) in 2015-16, while posting a 16-of-77 (.208) effort in league play to rank second.
• On the season, BSU has surrendered 10 power-play goals in 86 opponent opportunities. At nearly 90 percent (.884), BSU is fourth in the country in penalty-kill success.
• In BSU’s nine losses this season, it has been out scored 11-0 in the third period. In its eight wins and four ties, BSU has out scored its opponents 25-7 in the third period and overtime.
• Since 1999-2000, BSU is 55-43-11 (.555) in January—it’s best month of the season.
• A year ago, Bemidji State went 11-5-2 during the second half of the regular season, which included a seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) from Feb. 13-March 7.
• A BSU win Friday will get the Beavers back to .500 (9-9-4) for the first time since the team was 1-1-1, Oct. 17.
• Goaltender Michael Bitzer posted the first assist of his collegiate career Saturday. It marked the first assist from a BSU goaltender since Andrew Walsh recorded a helper Jan. 19, 2013—stretch of 111 games.
• BSU’s five third-period goals Saturday marked the first time BSU has recorded five goals in a single period since the second period of a March 7, 2009 match up with Robert Morris.
• BSU is 1-1-1 in non conference play this season, which includes a perfect (1-0-1) record in nonconference play at home.
• Graeme McCormack (4g-4a) and Gerry Fitzgerald (5g-3a) have each recorded eight points at home this season to lead BSU.
• BSU is 3-4-2 on Friday’s this season, averaging 2.67 and allowing 2.44 goals per game and is 9-of-40 on the power play (.225). Its penalty-kill unit has allowed just one goal in 34 opponent opportunities (.971).