BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team looks to maintain its grip on the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings this weekend as it hosts a two-game league series at Sanford Center. The Beavers enter the series seated in first place with a 12-1-1-1 record in league play, including a perfect 6-0-0 mark versus the WCHA on home ice. With 38 points through 14 league games, BSU owns an eight-point edge over its closest league counterpart.
No. 13/15 Bemidji State comes into the weekend after seeing its 13-game (12-0-1) league unbeaten streak come to an end with a split at second place Michigan Tech last weekend. The Beavers earned a 3-2 victory to open the series before dropping a 2-1 decision in the finale in Houghton, Mich.
Senior forwards Phillip Marinaccio and Brendan Harms currently lead the Beavers in scoring, logging team-highs of six goals and eight assists a piece through 18 games. Harms has come on strong as of late, netting 10 points (3g-7a) in the Beavers’ last nine games. Despite posting just two points in BSU’s last eight games, Gerry Fitzgerald also shares the team’s goal-scoring lead with six and has a total of 12 points (6g-6a). Junior goaltender Michael Bitzer has shouldered the bulk of the duties between the pipes, backstopping the naton’s top defense. He is 12-4-1 in 17 appearances and opens the series as the nation’s leader in wins (12) and tied for first in goals against average (1.47), second in save percentage (.940) and seventh with 393 saves. Through 14 WCHA contests, he owns a 12-1-1 record to go with a 0.99 goals against average and a .957 save percentage. He has also backstopped a BSU penalty-kill unit that is 52-for-55 (.945) in league play and ranks seventh in the country overall stopping 63-of-70 (.900) opponent power-plays.
Lake Superior State opens the series as the WCHA ‘s most potent offense. In 16 games the Lakers have averaged 3.38 goals to lead the league. Sophomore Mitch Hults has led the charge piling up 19 points (5g-14a), which includes a league-leading 10 assists in WCHA play. Diego Cuglietta has recorded a team-best eight goals, which includes a pair of short-handed tallies and two game-winning goals. LSSU has also seen its blueliners chip in offensively, headlined by Owen Headrick, who has 13 points (2g-11a). Junior Gordon Defiel has started 15 of the Lakers’ 16 contests this season and carries an 8-7-0 record into the series. He owns a .911 save percentage and has allowed 2.57 goals per game.
Bemidji State notables:
• The No. 13/15 Bemidji State hockey team moved to 12-5-1 overall and 12-1-1-1 in WCHA play, Dec. 2-3 splitting a league series with Michigan Tech. The Beavers earned a 3-1 victory in the opener, before dropping the finale, 2-1.
• Saturday’s loss marked and end to the Beavers’ 13-game WCHA unbeaten streak and BSU’s best start in league play since it went 18-0-0 in NCHA play during in 1983-84 and was the first time BSU had been defeated in WCHA play since a 6-1 loss at Minnesota State, March 4, 2016—a streak spanning 15 league games.
• The Beavers have scored 2.79 goals per game and allowed a league–low 1.00 goals per WCHA game this season, while they are nearly 22 percent on the power play and 95 percent on the penalty kill in 14 WCHA games.
• BSU head coach Tom Serratore is in his 16th season as head coach at his Alma Mater (’87). He is 256-245-68 (.504).
• Brendan Harms has 10 points (3g-7a) in BSU’s last nine games and logged the 80th point of his collegiate career Friday. In 124 games for BSU, the senior leads all active BSU players with 81 points (31g-50a).
• Michael Bitzer allowed one goal in the victory and three goals on the weekend. He improves to 12-4-1 on the season. He continues to lead the country in wins (12) and is tied for first in goals against average (1.47), while he is second in shutouts (3) and third in save percentage (.940).
• Brendan Harms and Charlie O’Connor each posted an assist Friday to match Phil Marinaccio for the team’s assist scoring lead (8).
• Marinaccio’s total matches a single-season career-high set in 2014-15 and extends his career-high scoring total to a team-best 14 (6g-8a).
• Charlie O’Connor led BSU with two goals and an assist versus MTU. He has five points in BSU’s last five games (2g-3a) and since Oct. 28 (12 games) he has 11 points (4g-7a).
• Defender Dan Billett took the team’s blocked shots lead last weekend, totaling a team-best 10 versus MTU. He now has 35 blocks to rank among the top 16 in the nation.
• The Bemidji State penalty-kill unit was 8-for-8 Dec. 2-3 to move to 63-of-70 (.900) overall. The BSU unit is fourth in the country, while it is 52-of-55 in league play to lead the WCHA at .945.
• BSU has not allowed a power-play goal in league play since the first period of its Nov. 12 contest at Minnesota State—a streak spanning 17 opponent opportunities and five games.
• The Beavers were shut out in eight power-play chances, Dec. 2-3. BSU is now 16-for-76 (.211) overall to rank 14th in the nation. BSU is 13-for-60 to lead the WCHA at .217.
• BSU has gone three games without a power-play goal. Brendan Harms netted the Beavers’ last PPG in the third period of BSU’s Nov. 25 game versus Princeton. BSU opens its home series riding a streak of 11 power-play chances without a goal.
• Brendan Harms leads the team with a career-high five power-play goals and is tied with Gerry Fitzgerald for the team’s power-play scoring lead with eight points apiece.
• BSU leads the country in goals allowed (1.61). The Beavers have allowed more than two goals just four times this season. All four have resulted in losses. Conversely, when BSU has held opponents to two goals or fewer, they are 12-1-1.
• In its last seven games, BSU has been carried by its upperclassmen. Twenty-nine of 36 points have come from BSU’s juniors and seniors during that span, which includes 20 points (8g-12a) from its seniors.
• The Beavers return home to Sanford Center this weekend to host Lake Superior State. In a series that dates back to 1966 and is steeped in championship tradition, LSSU leads the rivalry 28-22-3. With that said, BSU has won when titles were on the line. Three (1968, 1969, 1970) of BSU’s 13 small college national titles came on wins over the Lakers.
• BSU is 6-2-0 on home ice this season, which includes a 6-0-0 mark in league play at home. This season, BSU is averaging 2.62 goals per game, while allowing 1.62 at home. It’s power-play unit is clicking at almost 27 percent (9-of-34), while its penalty-kill unit is overing around 94 percent (30-of-32) on home ice.
• Lake Superior State owns a 13-10-2 all-time record versus BSU in Bemidji, Minn., with a 3-2-1 mark in games played at the Beavers’ current home—Sanford Center.
• Offensively, Brendan Harms leads all current BSU players in scoring versus LSSU. In eight games he has four points (3g-1a), which includes a pair of power-play markers.
• In goal, Jesse Wilkins has experienced a tremendous amount of success versus the Lakers. He is 2-0-0 in two career appearances with a 1.50 goals against average and .962 save percentage, which dates back to a series sweep Jan. 10-11, 2014.