Beavers host Northern Michigan for best-of-three to open WCHA postseason

Beavers host Northern Michigan for best-of-three to open WCHA postseason
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Beavers host Northern Michigan for best-of-three to open WCHA postseason

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men's hockey team makes its sixth consecutive appearance in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association postseason March 3-5 when it hosts Northern Michigan University for a best-of-three games series at Sanford Center.

The Beavers, who won the WCHA regular-season title and the MacNaughton Cup with a league record of 20-6-2-2, earned the top seed and the right to host the league's playoff throughout, host the eighth seed NMU for a quarterfinal match up.

The Beavers come into the series having won four of its last six contests and three of its last four at home.

The Wildcats open the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league. Since Jan. 7, the Wildcats are 8-3-2, which includes a five-game shutout streak led by sophomore goaltender Atte Tolvanen.

Bemidji State notables:
• Bemidji State split its final series of the WCHA regular season with a 2-1 victory and 2-1 loss to Minnesota State, Feb. 24-25.

• BSU finished the regular season with a 20-13-3 overall record, marking its first 20-win season since 2009-10, and a 20-6-2 mark in WCHA play. It’s the 30th 20-win season in BSU history.

• BSU head coach Tom Serratore is in his 16th season as head coach at his Alma Mater (’87). He is 264-253-70 (.510).

• Michael Bitzer allowed one goal in Friday’s win. He moves to 20-11-3 on the season. Among all NCAA Division I goaltenders, he is tied for sixth in wins (20), is first in GAA (1.68) and is tied for first in shutouts (5), while he is fifth in save percentage (.932).

• In league play, Bitzer, the WCHA Goaltending Champion, is 20-5-2 with a 1.40 goals against average and a .940 save percentage and all five of his shutouts have come versus league-member teams.

• Following a 26-save performance Feb. 24, Bitzer moved into fifth place on BSU’s all-time saves list. The junior now has 2,220 saves. He is 159 stops from Dan Bakala (2008-12) and fourth place (2,379).

• Bitzer’s 20th victory Friday made him the first Beaver to gain at least 20 wins in a season since Robin Cook 20-5-1 in 1994-95.

• At 47-38-11 in his BSU career, Bitzer is eighth at BSU all time and in sole possession of the BSU Division I era victories lead.

• Phillip Marinaccio has had a breakout season in 2016-17. The senior leads the team with 24 points (9g-16a). Not only is his point total a career-high, he has doubled his career goal total (17). He had 29 points in his first three season at BSU (8g-21a).

• Zach Whitecloud logged his 13th assist of the season Saturday. He leads all BSU defenders and all BSU rookies with 15 points (2g-13a), while he is tied for 16th among all WCHA defenders and 12th among league rookies in scoring.

• With 13 (1g-12a) of his 15 points coming on the power-play, Whitecloud is second on the team and tied for fourth in WCHA power-play scoring (1g-10a).

• Whitecloud has an assist in each of the Beavers’ last five games to lead all current Beavers in scoring.
• Gerry Fitzgerald leads all WCHA players in PPG (8) and is tied for second in the league with 13 points on the power play (8g-5a).
• Gerry Fitzgerald’s 12th goal of the season Saturday matched Kyle Bauman for the team’s lead. BSU is 8-2-0 when he scores this season.

• Gerry Fitzgerald has scored in four consecutive games. It is the third string of at least four straight games with a goal in his career. He opened the 2015-16 season with five straight.

• Junior Jordan Heller scored his first goal of the season and the fifth of his career Friday. He has six points (1g-5a) this year and 11 points in his career (5g-6a).

• Despite failing to score in the Beavers’ last eight games, Charlie O’Connor is fifth on the team in scoring with 18 points (6g-12a), matching his 2014-15 total for a single-season career high.

• The BSU penalty-kill unit was 5-for-7 versus MSU to move to 123-for-139 (.885) overall. The BSU unit is second in the nation to Air Force (140-157 (.892)), while it is 98-of-107 (.917) in league play to pace the WCHA.

• BSU was 2-for-8 on the power play versus MSU. BSU is now 29-for-148 (.196) overall, while the team is 25-for-115 (.217) to lead the WCHA.

• BSU continues to lead the country in goals allowed (1.89), while it has allowed 1.57 in WCHA play. The Beavers have allowed more than two goals eight times this season. All eight have resulted in losses.

• Bemidji State now turns its focus the No. 8 seed Northern Michigan University. BSU is 9-4-3 all-time versus NMU, which includes a 2-1, 5-2 sweep of the Wildcats in Bemidji Nov. 18-19 of this season. The teams have never met in postseason play.

• The Beavers have won the last four match-ups with NMU, are unbeaten in nine of the last 10 meetings (7-1-2) and are 4-3-1 versus NMU when playing at Sanford Center .

• Brendan Harms leads all current BSU players with eight points (2g-6a) and is a +4 in 10 games versus the Wildcats.

• Both Miles Fitzgerald (2g-4a) and Kyle Bauman (1g-5a) have six points versus NMU, while both of Gerry Fitzgerald’s goals (2g-1a) have stood as game-winners to lead his teammates.

• Michael Bitzer is 7-1-2 with four shutouts in 10 appearances versus NMU. He owns a 0.90 goals against average and a .962 save percentage in the series.

• Bitzer is 11-3-1 at home this season with a 1.48 goals against average and a .938 save percentage.

• Since joining the WCHA in 2010-11, BSU is 4-11 in postseason play including a 3-10 mark in first round/quarterfinal action.

• Kyle Bauman has four points (2g-2a) in five career WCHA postseason games to lead all current BSU players.  Gerry Fitzgerald has three points in five games (2g-1a), which includes an assist on BSU’s 3-1 victory over Bowling Green last postseason.

• Michael Bitzer is BSU’s only goaltender with postseason experience. He is 1-4 with a 2.63 goals against average and a .891 save percentage, while averaging 25 saves per game.