|December 31, 2016||1st||2nd||3rd||Final|
|1||12:23||BSU||Fitzgerald, Leo (Fitzgerald, Gerry , Marinaccio, Phillip)|
|Shots on Goal||34||17|
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Sullivan Arena) – Junior goaltender Michael Bitzer turned aside 17 University of Alaska Anchorage shots to backstop a short-handed Bemidji State University to a 1-0 victory Saturday to salvage a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series split.
The Beavers finished the game with 11 forwards and five defenders due to injury and a game misconduct, but came together to hold on for the their 14th victory of the season.
Bitzer and the UAA goaltender Olivier Mantha went toe-to-toe all afternoon. While Mantha may have allowed the game’s only goal, he also collected 34 saves to win the goalie battle. But in the end, it was Bitzer who grabbed his fourth shutout of the season to move into a tie for the national lead and extend his BSU career shutout record to 14.
Aggressive out of the chute, the Beavers were first on the scoreboard, getting a goal on a nifty play by Leo Fitzgerald. Gerry Fitzgerald and Phillip Marinaccio were credited with assists on the even-strength play. The assist extended Marinaccio’s point streak to five games (2g-3a). He now leads the team in scoring with a career-high 19 points (8g-11a). The goal would stand as the game winner as the only offensive park for either team all afternoon.
The Beavers took a 1-0 lead into the second period, opening short a man for the first three-minutes and 45-seconds due to Zach Whitecloud’s five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind. BSU snuffed out the long power play as one of four on the night, extending its successfully stymied penalty string to nine games dating back to Nov. 12 contest at Minnesota Stat and 33 consecutive opponent power play chances.
BSU carried its 1-0 lead deep into the third period. With 1:25 left, the Seawolves pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker. The strategy was unsuccessful as Bitzer and the Beavers held off the UAA charge to preserve the lead and the win. In the process, the Beavers also became the first WCHA team to clinch a spot in the league's postseason tournament. At 14-2-2-2, BSU owns 46 points in the league standings with 10 WCHA games left in the regular season.
The Beavers (14-7-3; 14-2-2-2 WCHA) complete their current four-game road swing Jan. 5-6 at Bowling Green State University. The rare Thursday-Friday WCHA series will begin at 6:07 p.m. (CT) Thursday from the Slater Family Ice Center with the finale set for an 8:37 p.m. opening face off Friday. The series finale will broadcast live on the American Sports Network and across Canada on TSN.
Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.