BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team returns to the Sanford Center and Robert H. Peters Rink for the first time since a non-conference game Dec. 17. The first place Beavers have already clinched a spot in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs, but look to take a step toward earning the right to host the first round of the conference playoffs as they host Ferris State University. Saturday, BSU will honor the architect of the program R.H. “Bob” Peters and his wife Lou for 50 years of association with the Beaver Hockey program and Bemidji, Minn. The legendary coach led the Beavers to 13 national titles and 702 victories during his 35 years as head coach.
The Beavers open the series after a week free from competition following a 2-2-0 road swing through Anchorage, Alaska and Bowling Green, Ohio. BSU has been led offensively by senior forward Phillip Marinaccio. The Nobleton, Ontario native has already established career bests with eight goals, 11 assists and 19 points. Marinaccio has two goals and three assists during the Beavers’ last seven games, while Kyle Bauman posted a goal and an assist at Bowling Green to climb to third on the team in scoring with 15 points (7g-8a). Junior goaltender Michael Bitzer has shouldered the bulk of the duties between the pipes, backstopping the nation’s top defense. He is 15-7-3 in 25 appearances and opens the series as the nation’s leader in wins (15), is tied for the lead with four shutouts (4), and is second in goals against average (1.51), while he is fourth in save percentage (.937). In addition, he has also backstopped a BSU penalty-kill unit that leads the country stopping 93-of-103 (.903) opponent power plays.
Ferris State is 0-4-3-1 in its last seven contests and is coming off a string of four consecutive overtime games. Senior forward Gerald Mayhew, who has 20 points (12g-8a) overall and 17 (10g-7a) in league play to rank third among all WCHA forwards, leads a Bulldogs attack that features nine players posting double-figure point totals through 24 games. Mayhew has a team-best 12 goals, while freshman forward Craig Pefley and senior defender Ryan Lowney have each recorded a team-leading 12 assists. The Bulldogs’ goaltending duties have been covered by a pair of underclassmen. Freshman Justin Kapelmaster has had the most success netting a 5-1-3 record in 10 appearances, while posting a 2.08 goals against average and a .941 save percentage. Sophomore Darren Smith has played in 16 games and posted a 2-13-1 record with a 2.91 goals against average and a .905 save percentage.
Bemidji State notables:
• Jan. 5-6, Bemidji State split a WCHA series at Bowling Green to move to 15-8-3 overall and 15-3-2-2 in WCHA play.
• BSU head coach Tom Serratore is in his 16th season as head coach at his Alma Mater (’87). He is 259-248-70 (.509).
• Michael Bitzer allowed four goals in the series. He moves to 15-7-3 on the season. He leads the nation in wins (15), is tied for the lead with four shutouts, and is second in goals against average (1.51), while he is fourth in save percentage (.937).
• Bitzer has played 1,508:26 of the Beavers’ 1,578:42 this year--that is 95.5 percent of the team’s season. Bitzer has played in all but one game this season and leads the country in minutes played.
• Following a 21-save performance Friday, Bitzer moves within striking distance of the top 10 at BSU all-time. In his career he has 1,998 saves, leaving him 22 stops from 10th place (2,013) and Mark Liska (1981-85).
• Through Nov. 19 and its first 14 games, BSU averaged 2.93 goals per game and posted an 11-2-1 record. In the 12 games since, the Beavers have averaged 1.50 goals per game and have scored more than two goals twice. BSU is 4-6-2 during that stretch.
• Jay Dickman posted the third multi-point game of his career Jan. 5 leading the Beavers to victory with a goal and an assist. The sophomore extended his career-high, single-season point total to 12 points (5g-7a).
• Of Dickman’s five goals this season, three have stood as game-winners tying him with Gerry Fitzgerald for the team’s lead.
• With his career-high seventh assist of the season Jan. 6, blue liner Dan Billett moved into a tie with Brett Beauvais for top scoring honors among BSU defenders (1g-7a). He ranks 17th among WCHA defenders with seven (1g-6a) points in league play.
• Freshman Dylan McCrory contributed his second goal of the season Jan. 6. In just seven games played, he leads all BSU rookies in goal scoring.
• T.J. Roo netted his second goal of the season in the series finale, marking an end to an 18-game scoring drought. Prior to Jan. 6, his last goal came Oct. 29 versus Alaska Anchorage.
• Kyle Bauman netted his eighth goal of the season Jan. 6 series to move into a tie with Phil Marinaccio for the team’s goal scoring lead.
• The BSU penalty-kill unit was 7-for-9 versus BGSU to move to 93-for-103 (.903) overall. The BSU leads the country.
• BSU’s penalty-kill unit is tops in the WCHA. BSU has killed 75-of-80 (.938) man advantage opportunities in league play.
• The Beavers were 2-for-8 on the power play in the series. BSU is now 23-for-112 (.205) overall to rank 14th in the nation, while the team is 18-for-84 (.214) in league play to lead in the WCHA.
• BSU has scored a power-play goal in its last four games and is 13-of-54 (.241) in the 11 games since Nov. 5.
• All eight (1g-7a) of Zach Whitecloud’s points this season have come on the power play. He is tied with Dan Billett for 17th among WCHA defenders with seven (1g-6a) points in league play.
• BSU continues to lead the country in goals allowed per game (1.69). The Beavers have allowed more than two goals just six times this season. All six have resulted in losses.
• The Beavers are 7-14-2 all-time versus Ferris State, which includes a 2-7-1 mark when hoisting the Bulldogs in Bemidji, Minn.
• BSU opens the series looking to stop a three-game winless streak versus FSU dating back to Dec. 5, 2015 (0-2-1). BSU was 1-2-1 last season versus the Bulldogs and 1-1-0 when hosting FSU, winning a 2-0 game Dec. 4 and dropping a 2-1 contest Dec. 5.
• Of the 23 games logged in the BSU-FSU all-time series dating back to 1999-2000, the Beavers and Bulldogs have gone to overtime seven times, with FSU owning a 5-0-2 edge in those games.
• Michael Bitzer is 2-3-1 all-time versus FSU and carries a 1.47 goals against average and .951 save percentage in six starts.
• With BSU averaging just over two goals per game since the series inception, Charlie O’Connor leads all current Beavers with three points (3a) in 11 career games versus the Bulldogs.
• BSU returns to Sanford Center where it is 7-3-1 this season, averaging 2.36 goals per game while allowing 1.64. The BSU penalty kill is clicking at 93 percent (39-of-42) and its power-play unit has converted 11-of-49 (.224) man advantage opportunities.
• BSU will honor legendary coach R.H. “Bob” Peters and his wife Lou for 50 years associated with the Beaver hockey Program Saturday. BSU’s coach from 1966-2001 and author of the Beaver Hockey blueprint recorded 702 wins at BSU, while winning 13 national championships and 16 conference titles.
• The Beavers could clinch home ice as early as Friday with a win versus FSU (3 pts), a loss by Alaska (0 pts) and no more than 1 point (SO/3x3 OTL) earned by Alabama-Huntsville. BSU could clinch without any help this weekend with 5 points earned.