BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team opens a four-game homestand this weekend as it hosts No. 14 Michigan Tech (16-7-5; 13-6-3 WCHA) in a two-game series that could be a preview of the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. With the Huskies tied for second place in the league standings and BSU holding down the No. 6 spot, there is a possibility the Beavers could be headed to Houghton, Mich. March 11-13.
The Beavers open the series unbeaten in 10-of-12 games (8-2-2) since Jan. 1, but seek their first win over Michigan Tech since Oct. 22, 2011.
Sophomore Gerry Fitzgerald continues to lead BSU’s scoring effort with a career-high 22 points (12g-10a), which includes a team-best 12 goals. However, the sophomore has not found the back of the net in BSU’s last seven games (0g-2a). Meanwhile, Brendan Harms has netted 11 (2g-9a) of his 20 points this season on home ice and has at least a point in five of the Beavers’ last seven games. He is tied with Markus Gerbrandt for second on the team’s scoring list. Sophomore Michael Bitzer has taken control of Bemidji State’s goaltending duties. He has started BSU’s last 12 contests and is 7-3-2, has stopped 271-of-289 shots (.937) and has a 1.53 goals against average in 703:39 minutes during that span.
Michigan Tech, which is coming off a bye week, is unbeaten in its last eight games (5-0-3). The Huskies, who are second in the WCHA in goals per game (2.95), are led offensively by senior forward Alex Petan. The senior has a team-best 14 goals, including six on the power-play, to go with 11 assists for 25 points. Malcolm Gould and Shane Hanna have posted matching 12-helper seasons to lead MTU’s assist effort. In net, Jamie Phillips has shouldered the bulk of the Huskies’ goaltending duties. He is 16-6-5 on the season and leads the WCHA in wins, is fourth in goals against average (2.00) and sixth in the league with a .921 save percentage.
The Huskies’ power-play will be a test for BSU’s penalty-kill unit. In league play, MTU is clicking at a WCHA-best 25-percent on the man advantage (18-of-72).
Bemidji State notables:
• Bemidji State split a WCHA series at Lake Superior State, Feb. 12-13. BSU opened with a 2-1 victory Friday before dropping a 3-0 game, which included a pair of empty-net goals, Saturday.
• BSU is 13-12-15 overall and 8-10-4 in WCHA to sit sixth in the league standings (20 pts) with six WCHA games to play.
• In his 15th season as head coach of the Beavers, Tom Serratore has a career record of 240-236-66 (.504).
• BSU leading scorer Gerry Fitzgerald (12g-10a) has not found the back of the net since Jan. 16— a streak spanning seven games. The sophomore has gone without a goal in eight games one time during his career (Dec. 6, 2014 – Jan. 23, 2015).
• Sophomore Kyle Bauman has recorded at least a point in four of the Beavers’ last five games (1g-4a)
• After going 2-9-2 to open the season, Michael Bitzer is 7-3-2 in his last 12 appearances, has stopped 271-of-289 shots (.937) and has a 1.53 goals against average in 703:39 minutes during that span.
• BSU’s assist leader Brendan Harms, with a career-high 15, snapped a 10-game streak without a goal, netting his fifth of 2015-16 Friday. It was his 20th point (5g-15a) of the season. He has surpassed 20 points in each of his first three seasons at BSU.
• John Parker netted his eighth goal of the season Friday. He now has four goals and five points in BSU’s last seven games.
• Defender Brett Beauvais has four points (1g-3a) this season, but has netted a point in two of BSU’s last three games (1g-1a).
• Senior defender Graeme McCormack leads all BSU blueliners and is tied for third on the team with 15 points (6g-9a). He has a team-best 12 points (4g-8a) on the power play. He is tied for 19th on the national power-play scoring list.
• McCormack has a team-high 65 blocked shots to lead the WCHA and rank 12th in the country.
• This season, the Beavers’ power-play unit is 23-of-114 (.200), while posting a 17-of-93 (.183) effort in WCHA play (2nd).
• A power-play goal this weekend would give BSU 24 in 2015-16. It’s best PPG total since 2011-12 (25-of-118/.212).
• On the season, BSU has surrendered 12 power-play goals in 118 opponent opportunities. At nearly 90 percent (.898), BSU is fourth in the country in penalty-kill success.
• The Beavers’ PK is 76-of-85 (.894) in league play to lead the WCHA and this weekend will go head-to-head with the league’s top power-play unit in Michigan Tech (18-72/.250).
• Since moving to the NCAA Division I level, BSU has never allowed fewer than 20 power-play goals in a season and has only once (2004-05/.868/190-of-219) finished with a penalty-kill percentage over .860. The Beavers have allowed 12 power-play goals through 30 games this season and are at .898 on the kill.
• BSU has snuffed out 30 of its opponent’s last 32 power-play chances and is 41-of-44 (.932) since Jan. 3.
• In BSU’s 12 losses this season, it has been out scored 17-3 in the third period and overtime. In its 13 wins and five ties, BSU has out scored its opponents 35-10 in the third period and overtime.
• 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.
• This season, 10 different BSU players have logged a game-winning goal. Markus Gerbrandt (3) and Brendan Harms (2) are the only BSU players with more than one game-winner.
• Junior Nate Arentz is one point from reaching the 40 point plateau. He has 16g-23a in 90 games as a Beaver.
• BSU is 4-7-3 at Sanford Center this season, but is 2-1-1 at home since the turn of the calendar year.
• This season the Beavers have averaged 2.43 goals per game on home ice, while allowing 2.36 and have logged 13 of their 23 power-play goals at home (.220).
• BSU is 5-9-4 versus Michigan Tech all-time, including a 4-4-0 mark versus the Huskies in Bemidji, Minn.
• The Beavers are winless in their last 10 games (0-7-3) and have lost four straight to MTU. BSU last win versus the Huskies came Oct. 22, 2011, 3-1 as a part of a home series sweep (W, 3-1 and W, 6-5).
• Junior forward Brendan Harms leads all current Beavers netting 0.83 points per game versus the Huskies in six career appearances. He has two goals, both on the power-play, and three assists.
• BSU’s top goaltender, Michael Bitzer is 0-3-0 with a 2.05 GAA and .906 save percentage in three appearances versus MTU.
• Bemidji State is 2-4-1 versus top 20 teams this season and are 0-4-0 versus MTU all-time when it is nationally-ranked.