No. 10/12 Bemidji State breaks from league play to host Princeton

No. 10/12 Bemidji State breaks from league play to host Princeton
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
No. 10/12 Bemidji State breaks from league play to host Princeton

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team wraps up its four-game homestand this weekend with a non-conference series versus Princeton University at Sanford Center. The No. 10 Beavers enter the series unbeaten in their last eight games (7-0-1) of the season and look to go 8-0-0 at home this season with a pair of games versus the Tigers.

Bemidji State comes into the weekend after earning its fifth series sweep of the season, using 2-1 and 5-2 wins to defeat Western Collegiate Hockey Association rival Northern Michigan University last weekend. The wins marked the Beavers’ 10th and 11th of the season and established a program record for the earliest date BSU has collected its 11th victory.
Senior Phillip Marinaccio registered four points (2g-2a) in the series to assume the Beavers’ scoring lead with a career-best 13 points (6g-7a) this season. Marinaccio shares the team’s goal scoring lead with Gerry Fitzgerald, who has six goals, while the Nobleton, Ontario native and Brendan Harms sit atop BSU’s assist list with seven apiece. Junior goaltender Michael Bitzer has been in net for 845:03 of 848:42 minutes this season. He opens the series as the nation’s leader in shutouts (3) and wins (11), while he is second in goals against average (1.35), fifth in save percentage (.944) and 10th with 270 saves. Through 12 WCHA contests, he owns a 11-0-1 record to go with a 0.91 goals against average and a .958 save percentage.  He has also backstopped a BSU penalty-kill unit that is 44-for-47 (.936) in league play and ranks fifth in the country overall stopping 50-of-55 (.909) opponent power-plays.    
Princeton travels from New Jersey to Bemidji in search of its first win of the season. The Tigers are 0-6-1 overall and are 0-5-1 in ECAC Hockey play. Eric Robinson and Alex Riche lead Princeton with six points apiece. Robinson has five goals, which include a pair of power-play markers, to lead the team in both categories. David Hallisey and Max Veronneau sit atop the team’s assist list with four. Colton Phinney is the only goaltender to find the ice in 2016-17. He is 0-6-1 with a 3.72 goals against average and .885 save percentage.  Phinney has also backstopped the nation’s top penalty-kill unit, snuffing out 27-of-29 (.931) of its opponents’ man advantage opportunities.

The Rivalry
This weekend marks just the third and fourth times the Beavers and Tigers have clashed on the ice in a series that began during the 1999-2000 season. The Beavers open the non-conference series owning a 2-0-0 edge in games versus Princeton with both taking place in Bemidji, Minn., however Friday marks the Tigers’ first appearance at Sanford Center.

Bemidji State Notables
• Bemidji State improved to 11-2-1 on the season in 11-0-1-1 after a WCHA series 2-1, 5-2 sweep of  Northern Michigan, Nov. 18-19. The weekend marked the earliest the Beavers have ever hit the double-digit wins mark in a season.  

• The series victory over the Wildcats gave the Beavers six series wins in seven series this season and five sweeps. Last year BSU assembled five series wins and three sweeps during the entire season.

• BSU head coach Tom Serratore is in his 16th season as head coach at his Alma Mater (’87). He is 255-242-68 (.504).

• The Beavers’ No. 10 ranking in the poll this weeks marks BSU’s highest ranking since it was ninth in the March 22, 2010 poll. BSU is also No. 12 in the USAToday/USA Hockey poll.

• Michael Bitzer turned aside 42-of-45 shots he faced in two games versus NMU. He has backstopped the Beavers to a 11-2-1 start. He owns a 11-0-1-1 record in league play with a scorching .958 save percentage and 0.11 goals against average.

• Bitzer leads the country in wins (11) and shutouts (3), while he is second in goals against average (1.35), fifth in save percentage (.943) and 10th with 312 saves.

• Gerry Fitzgerald and Phil Marinaccio each posted their sixth goal of the season Saturday and lead the team.

• Gerry Fitzgerald scored his third game-winning goal of the season Saturday. He now has 10 points (5g-5a) in BSU’s last 10 games, which includes three game-winning goals.

• Phillip Marinaccio posted the first multi-goal game of his career since Nov. 16, 2013, Saturday. His three-point night (2g-1a) vaulted him to the fore front of the BSU scoring lead. He has 13 points (6g-7a) with a pair of game-winning goals.

• Through 14 games, Marinaccio has already established a career single-season high for points with 13 (6g-7a).  It surpassed his 11-point (5g-6a) freshman campaign.

• Brendan Harms, the reigning WCHA Offensive Player of the Week, had a hand in six (1g-5a) of the Beavers’ seven goals Nov. 18-19, which included matching a WCHA record four assists in the first period of Saturday night’s 5-2 victory.

• Harms is tied with G. Fitzgerald for second on the team in scoring (5g-7a) and leads the team with seven assists.  

• Five for five Nov. 18-19, the Bemidji State penalty-kill unit is 44-for-47 (.936) to lead the WCHA and 50-of-55 (.909) overall. The BSU unit is fourth in the country.

• The Beavers were 3-for-6 on the man advantage versus Northern Michigan. BSU is now 15-for-63 (.238) overall, to rank seventh in the nation, and 13-for-52 (.250) in WCHA play to share the league’s lead with Michigan Tech (14-for-56).

• Gerry Fitzgerald (4g-4a) leads all Beavers in power-play scoring, netting eight of his 12 (6g-6a) points on the man advantage.

• Jay Dickman logged his fourth assist of 2016-17 Friday. That stands as single-season best for the sophomore.

• BSU is now 6-0-0 at home this season and has scored 3.17 goals per game, while allowing just 1.00.

• At 11-0-1-1, the Beavers sit atop the WCHA standings with 35 points. The last time BSU opened a league slate unbeaten in its first 12 games was 1983-84. BSU went on to finish 18-0-0 in NCHA play and won the NCAA Division II title.

• Wildcats scored midway through the first period Friday, marking just the second time this season BSU has not been the first to score. The Beavers have out scored their opponents 19-6 in the first period of its first 12 games.

• Despite trailing Northern Michigan or 49 seconds Friday, the Beavers have trailed for just 94:13 and have held a lead for 459:16 of 845:03 minutes played—that’s 54-percent.

• The BSU defense has held its opponents to one goal or less in 10 of its 14 games in 2016-17. BSU has allowed a national low 1.36 goals per game this season.

• Bemidji State is currently on an eight-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1) its longest streak since an 8-0-1 run to open the 2009-10 season. BSU’s last unbeaten streak of at least nine games came Nov. 11-Dec. 29, 2006 (8-0-2).

• The Beavers return to non-conference play Nov. 25-26 for the first time since Oct. 21-22 at then-No. 1 North Dakota. The Beavers are 0-2-0 in non-conference play. BSU was 6-4-1 in non-conference play a year ago.

• The Beavers host Princeton, rekindling a series that got its start Dec. 10-11 of the 1999-2000 season. BSU welcomes the Tigers owning a 2-0-0 record in the series with both games played at BSU’s former home, the John S Glas Fieldhouse.

• Since making the jump to the NCAA Division I level prior to the 1999-2000 season, BSU is 5-6-5 versus teams hailing from the ECAC. In addition to two wins versus Princeton, BSU has wins versus Union, Clarkston and Cornell.

• Since the beginning of the 2008-09 season, BSU is 18-14-4 in non-conference play at home.