BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team continues its four-game homestand this weekend as it hosts Ferris State University (10-9-4; 7-8-3 WCHA) in a two-game series with major Western Collegiate Hockey Association postseason implications as the Beavers look to make a move back into position to host an opening round playoff series as one of the league’s top four teams. The WCHA series marks the Bulldogs’ first appearance at Sanford Center since knocking the Beavers out of the 2015 WCHA Playoffs.
The Beavers open the series riding a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1) and are unbeaten in their last four WCHA contests (3-0-1). After a 11-5-2 second-half run in 2014-15, the Beavers hope to repeat the run in 2015-16 and continue their assent in the WCHA standings. BSU is now 10-9-4 overall and 7-8-3 in league play to hold down sixth place in the league standings--just two points behind Ferris State for fourth.
Sophomore Gerry Fitzgerald continues to lead BSU’s scoring effort with a career-high 20 points (12g-8a), which includes a team-best 12 goals. The sophomore has posted at least a point in each of the Beavers’ last six games, including a three-point weekend (2g-1a) versus Arizona State last weekend. Brendan Harms and Markus Gerbrandt lead the team with 11 assists apiece and sit among the Beavers’ top four scorers with 15 (4g-11a) and 14 (3g-11a) points, respectively. Sophomore Michael Bitzer has regained the reins of Bemidji State’s goaltending duties. In his last five outings, he is 4-0-1, has stopped 106-of-111 shots (.955) and has a .984 goals against average in 305 minutes of play.
Ferris State come into the series unbeaten in five of their last seven games (4-2-1), which includes a three-point weekend at home versus league foe University of Alabama-Huntsville last weekend. The Bulldogs are led offensively by Gerald Mayew, who has 21 points (6g-15a) on the season, which includes 15 points (4g-11a) in 18 WCHA games. Adding to FSU’s firepower is freshman Corey Mackin, who has a team-best eight goals and 17 points (8g-9a) to lead all WCHA rookies in scoring. Darren Smith and Charles Williams has split time in the Bulldogs’ net this season. Smith is 7-4-4 this season and has been in net for FSU’s last three contests. He has a 2.20 goals against average and has a .924 save percentage.
The Bemidji State-Ferris Sate rivalry stretches back to 1999. The Bulldogs enter this weekend holding a 13-7-1 all-time advantage over the Beavers, which includes a 6-2-0 record in games played on BSU’s home ice. The teams met Dec. 4-5 and split a low-scoring series in Big Rapids, Mich. Bitzer made 25 saves as Harms and Gerbrandt each scored to lead the Beavers to a 2-0 win to open the series. The following night, BSU took an early lead on a Jordan Heller goal, but goals by Mayhew in the second and Mackin in the third, sealed the 2-1 win and series split for the Bulldogs.
Bemidji State Notables
• Bemidji State posted its second consecutive series sweep with a pair of nonconference wins over Arizona State, 5-0 and 2-0, Jan. 15-16. The Beavers improved to 10-9-4 overall to move above .500 for the first time since Oct. 16 (1-0-1).
• The victory extends BSU’s current unbeaten streak to a season-best six games (5-0-1). BSU last went unbeaten in seven games (6-0-1) Feb. 13-March 7 of last season.
• In his 15th season as head coach at BSU, Tom Serratore has a record of 237-232-65 (.501) and is 7-11-1 versus FSU.
• Gerry Fitzgerald has logged a point in each of the six games (4g-4a) since he returned from injury, Jan. 2.
• Forward Nate Arentz has scored six points (2g-4a), netting a point in each of BSU’s last four games.
• After posting just two assists in BSU’s first 20 games of the season, defender Ruslan Pedan has logged four points (2g-2a) in BSU’s last three games.
• In BSU’s 10 wins this season, 10 different BSU players have logged the game-winning goal.
• Michael Bitzer turned aside 18 shots Saturday for his fourth shutout of the season and eighth of his career.
• After going 2-9-2 to open the season, Bitzer is unbeaten in his last five appearances (4-0-1), including two shutouts, has stopped 106-of-111 shots (.955) and has a .984 goals against average in 305 minutes during that span.
• BSU has out scored its opponents 25-10 in its last six games, averaging 4.17 goals per game since returning from break.
• G. Fitzgerald posted his team-leading 12th goal of the season Saturday to finish the weekend with three points (2g-1a). He established a new single-season high for goals scored (12) and added to his team-leading scoring total of 20 (12g-8a).
• Markus Gerbrandt set a new career high logging his 11th assist of 2015-16 Friday, matching Brendan Harms for the team’s lead. No current Beaver has more career helpers than Harms (36).
• Senior defender Graeme McCormack leads all BSU blueliners and is tied for third on the team with 14 points (6g-8a). He has a team-best 11 points (4g-7a) on the power play. He is tied for 14th on the national power-play scoring list.
• McCormack has a team-high 49 blocked shots to lead the WCHA and rank 14th in the country.
• The Beavers have averaged 4.3 goals in their 10 wins and 1.56 goals per game in their nine losses.
• The Beavers are 4-6-2 at Sanford Center this season, averaging 2.58 while surrendering 2.42 goals per game.
• BSU’s power-play has been outstanding at home, converting 13-of-53 (.245) man advantage chances at Sanford Center.
• The BSU power-play unit is 20-of-92 (.215) in 2015-16, while going 16-of-77 (.208) in league play to rank second.
• On the season, BSU’s penalty-kill is 86-of-96. At nearly 90 percent (.896), BSU is third in the country on the kill.
• In BSU’s nine losses this season, it has been out scored 11-0 in the third period. In its 10 wins and four ties, BSU has out scored its opponents 28-7 in the third period and overtime.
• Since 1999-2000, BSU is 57-43-11 (.559) 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.
• Junior blueliner Ruslan Pedan needs just one point to reach the 30-point plateau (8g-21a).
• Phil Marinaccio posted a point in each game of the ASU series, including his first goal of the season, after posting just two assists in the Beavers’ previous 17 games.
• BSU returns to WCHA play this weekend when it hosts Ferris State in the Bulldogs’ first appearance at Sanford Center since they swept BSU out of the 2015 WCHA Playoffs, March 13-14.
• The Beavers are 7-13-1 versus FSU in a series that got its start in 1999. Bemidji State is 2-6-0 when hosting the Bulldogs and have been out scored 4.13 to 1.88 in those games.
• Senior Markus Gerbrandt leads all current players in success versus FSU. In 11 appearances versus the Bulldogs, he has five goals and an assist, including two power-play goals and a game-wining goal.
• Goaltender Michael Bitzer is 2-3-1 versus the Bulldogs, which includes a shutout, but carries a 1.47 goals against average and a.951 save percentage in those games.
• Gerry Fitzgerald (7g-4a) has recorded 11 points at home this season to lead all current BSU players.
• BSU is 4-4-2 on Friday’s this season, averaging 2.90 and allowing 2.20 goals per game and is 9-of-42 on the power play (.214). Its penalty-kill unit has allowed just one goal in 39 opponent opportunities (.974).