BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team opens this weekend’s two-game Western Collegiate Hockey Association series versus the University of Alaska Anchorage as the nation’s No. 20 team. It marks the first time the Beavers have played in front of a Sanford Center crowd as one of the nation’s top 20 teams.
The Beavers and Seawolves will open the series ay 7:07 p.m. Friday and invite everyone to get a jump on Halloween and come dressed as your favorite ghost, goblin or superhero. All youth (grade 12 and under) wearing a costume will be eligible to purchase an $8 ticket (including fees). Saturday, again at 7:07 p.m., BSU is partnering with Sanford Health and Edith Sanford Brest Cancer Center to "Pink the Rink" for breast cancer awareness and ask you to wear your favorite pink Bemidji State gear.
The Beavers come into the series after a pair of one-goal losses at top-ranked University of North Dakota. The Beavers saw an early 2-0 lead slip away at the hands of a Brock Boeser hat trick Friday, 3-2, and battled back from a 5-1 third period deficit Saturday to come within a goal of extending the non-conference game to overtime, 5-4. Tickets for both games are still available at the Sanford Center Bob Lowth Ford Pickup Window or at Ticketmaster.com.
The Beavers have been led offensively by Brett Beauvias. With six points (2g-4a), the junior blueliner has matched his 2015-16 scoring output (1g-5a) in just six games this season. Gerry Fitzgerald, who led the Beavers in scoring a year ago (14g-11a), had three assists last weekend to match three of his teammates for the team’s assists lead with four. Michael Bitzer, now a junior, has been in net for 356:28 of 360 minutes this season. He ranks among the nation’s top 10 goaltenders in shutouts (2), wins (4), goals against average (1.68) and save percentage (.935). He has been lights out in WCHA play. Through four games, he owns a 4-0-0 record to go with a pair of shutouts, a 0.50 goals against average and a .977 save percentage. He has also backstopped a BSU penalty-kill unit that is a perfect 22-for-22 in league play and ranks fifth in the country overall stopping 28-of-30 (933) opponent power-plays.
Alaska Anchorage opens its WCHA season this weekend toting a 1-3-0 overall record. The Seawolves were idle last weekend after a 3-1 loss to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Oct. 14, and a 1-0 victory over Canisius College, Oct. 15. Offensive output has been a struggle for UAA. The Seawolves are averaging just 0.75 goals per game this season, while allowing 3.25. Austin Azurdia is the team’s leading scorer with two points (2a), while seven players have at lest one point. Jarrett Brown, Mason Mitchell and Jonah Renouf have accounted for UAA’s goals through four games. Oliver Mantha has been between the pipes in three of the Seawolves’ four games. He is 1-2-0 with a 3.33 goals against average and an .886 save percentage.
Bemidji State notables:
• Bemidji State dropped a pair of one-goal games at No. 1 North Dakota last weekend marking the first time the Beavers had been swept since Dec. 11-12, 2015 versus Bowling Green (4-1 and 2-0).
• Michael Bitzer turned aside a season-best 33 shots Friday. It was the ninth 30-save night of his 68-game BSU career.
• Bitzer has backstopped the Beavers to a 4-2-0 start. He owns a 1.68 GAA, and a .935 save percentage.
• In league play, Bitzer is 4-0-0 with a 0.50 GAA and .977 save percentage. He has allowed just two goals, including a shot-handed goal, in 239:53 of WCHA play.
• Bitzer leads the country with two shutouts, is second in wins (4), eighth in GAA (1.68 ), ninth in save percentage (.935) and saves (145).
• BSU head coach Tom Serratore begins his 16th season as head coach at his Alma Mater (’87). He is 248-242-67 (.504).
• After registering just six points (1g-5a) in 39 games as a sophomore a year ago, Brett Beauvais already has a team-best six points (2g-4a) through the Beavers’ first six games of 2016-17, which includes a goal Friday and an assist Saturday.
• Phillip Marinaccio logged his first goal of the season Friday. It marked the ninth goal of his career and his first since Jan. 31, 2016.
• Bemidji native Dillon Eichstadt recorded his first collegiate goal Saturday, a short-handed goal, in the midst of BSU’s three-goal, third period comeback attempt. It was his 43rd game in the Green and White.
• After holding its opponents scoreless on their first 25 power-play opportunities of 2016-17, the BSU penalty-kill unit allowed its first power-play goal of the season Friday as UND went 1-for-5. BSU is 28-of-30 (.933) to rank fifth in the country.
• BSU was 2-for-11 on the man advantage versus North Dakota, which includes a 2-for-4 effort in the series finale. BSU is now 5-of-32 (.156) on the season.
• Bemidji State has been the first team on the scoreboard in each of its six games this season.
• After posting four points (0g-4a) in 35 games as a freshman, defender Dan Billett has been a part of the Beavers scoring punch through six games of 2016-17. He has already matched his scoring total from a year ago (0g-4a).
• Through six games, 11 different BSU players have scored at least one goal. Jay Dickman leads the team with three goals, matching his season total from 2015-16.
• Dickman and Brendan Harms have each posted a pair of power-play goals to lead BSU. Freshman Zach Whitecloud leads all BSU players with three points on the man advantage (1g-2a).
• Dan Billett leads the Beavers and ranks 10th in the nation with 15 blocked shots this season.
• UND took its first lead of the night Friday with 7:08 to go in the game and led for more than 40 minutes Saturday. Still through six games, the Beavers have trailed for just 47:29 and have held a lead for 236:29 of 360 minutes played.
• BSU is 2-0-0 at home in 2016-17. A year ago, the Beavers were 6-8-4 on their home ice.
• In their 61st season BSU is 1,051-583-120 all-time to rank second only to Boston College in all-time wining percentage (.634).
• Bemidji State has out scored its opponents 9-2 in the first period through six games. It has been out scored 8-7 in the second and third periods combined.
• The Beavers are 9-1-4 all time versus the Seawolves and open the series riding a four-game winning streak an a 13-game unbeaten streak versus UAA.
• The Beavers are 5-1-2 when hosting UAA in Bemidji.
• BSU has scored at least three goals in its last nine games versus UAA and averages 3.85 goals per game in the all-time series, while allowing 2.50.
• Gerry Fitzgerald leads all current Beavers in offensive success versus the Seawolves. In six career games, he has seven points (4g-3a), which includes a game-wining goal.
• Kyle Bauman has also fared well versus UAA. In six games, he has fur goals, which includes a game winner.
• Goaltender Michael Bitzer is 4-0-0 versus UAA with a 1.75 GAA and .924 save percentage.