BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team (5-6-5; 2-4-4-2 WCHA) continues Western Collegiate Hockey Association play this weekend as it hosts the University of Alaska-Anchorage (1-11-4; 1-6-3-3 WCHA) to wrap up the first half of the 2017-18 season. With the Beavers seeking their first league win since Nov. 4, the series versus the Seawolves may be just what the doctor ordered to set BSU on the right track before the holiday break. BSU has surrendered just one loss to UAA in the last 17 meetings.
The Beavers open the series on the heels of a pair of ties to Northern Michigan University at Sanford Center, Dec. 8-9. Third-Team All-WCHA forward, senior Gerry Fitzgerald continues to lead the team in scoring, averaging just under 1.00 point per game (4g-10a) in 16 appearances this season. Senior Kyle Bauman is one of the Beavers’ hottest players and most consistent scorers. He leads the team with six goals and in the eight games since Nov. 10, the forward has eight points (1g-7a). He is joined by rookie Aaron Miller. After logging just one point in his first seven appearances, the freshman has posted six points (1g-5a) in his last seven appearances. CCM All-America West First Team goaltender Michael Bitzer has backstopped a penalty-kill unit that is third in the nation through the first 11 weeks of the season. The team has snuffed out 48 of its opponents’ 53 man advantage opportunities (.96) and 31-of-34 in WCHA play to rank only behind Ferris State (.927). Bitzer has started in the Beavers’ net for 15-of-16 games and is 5-5-5 with a .898 save percentage and a 2.67 goals against average.
Alaska-Anchorage travels to Bemidji, Minn., looking to correct a streak of eight games without a win (0-3-5), however unlike the Beavers, the Seawolves have come out of its three most recent ties either winning in a shoot out or in the 3-on-3 overtime period to grab the extra point in the league standings.
Senior forward Austin Azurdia enters the weekend as the Seawolves’ top scorer. He has 13 points (8g-5a) and leads UAA with eight goals and a game-winner. Junior Jonah Renouf owns the team’s top assist total (8), while he is second with 10 points (2g-8a). All but one of his assists have come in 10 WCHA games to pace the team in league play. Olivier Mantha has shouldered the bulk of the Seawolves’ goaltending duties, appearing in all 16 games and logging 949:35 between the pipes. He ranks third in the nation with 519 saves this season while posting a .911 save percentage. He is 1-11-4 and has surrendered 3.22 goals per game.
The Bemidji State/Alaska-Anchorage series is one that began when the Beavers made the move to the WCHA for the 2010-11 season. In the seven seasons since, BSU has built a 12-2-4 advantage in the series and has lost just once, a 4-1 loss in Anchorage Dec. 30, 2016, in the last 17 meetings (12-1-4) between the teams.
Bemidji State notables:
• Bemidji State skated to a pair of draws with Northern Michigan, Dec. 8-9, but dropped game one with 1:58 left in the 3-on-3 overtime period and lost a shootout in game two.
• BSU head coach Tom Serratore is in his 17th season as head coach at his Alma Mater (’87). He is 271-262-75 (.507).
• Myles Fitzgerald made his return to the BSU line up Friday, netting an assist. It was his first game since Nov. 10 due to injury. He added a goal Saturday. He has seven points (4g-3a) in 11 games and ranks seventh on the team in scoring.
• Justin Baudry accounted for BSU’s only goal Friday. With four goals this season, he has more than doubled his carer total, set a single-season high and the PPG stands as the junior’s first as a Beaver.
• Baudry also had an assist Saturday. Both points for the defender, Dec. 8-9, were on game-tying goals and came on the power play.
• Junior forward T.J. Roo led all BSU players Saturday, logging his first multi-point game as he posted a pair of assists. In the game, he matched his single-season-high total for assists (2) and points (3).
• Both senior defender Carter Struthers and sophomore forward Hampus Sjödahl netted their first collegiate goals, Dec. 9.
• Kyle Bauman has been BSU’s most consistent scorer over the course of the last eight games. He has logged at least a point in five games since Nov. 10 and has eight points during that span (1g-7a).
• This season Kyle Bauman has been tremendous at home. He has a team-best 10 points (5g-5a) in nine games at Sanford Center.
• Dickman, who is currently tied with Kyle Bauman for the team’s goal-scoring lead with six, has equalled his single-season career-high for goals scored.
• After logging just one point in his first seven appearances, freshman Aaron Miller has posted six points (1g-5a) in his last seven.
• Bitzer enters the Dec. 15-16 series with 2,699 saves. Friday he surpassed BSU great Chuck Scanlon (1971-75) and moved into third place on BSU’s all-time saves list. He is 18 from matching Grady Hunt, who has 2,717, (2000-04) for second place.
• At 53-44-15 in his BSU career, Bitzer is eighth at BSU all time and in sole possession of the BSU Division I-era victories lead.
• His 18 career shutouts is a BSU all-time record and stands as the mark for career shuts for a WCHA goaltender.
• BSU’s opponents have been the first to score in 12 of its 16 games this season. BSU is 4-5-3 in those games.
• The BSU penalty-kill unit was 5-for-6 versus NMU to move to 48-of-53 in 2017-18. The Beavers rank third in the country (.906) for the nation’s more efficient unit. At 31-of-34 (.912) BSU ranks second to only Ferris State (.927) in the WCHA.
• BSU was 2-for-5 on the power-play Dec. 8-9, is now 13-of-57 (.228) on the season and 9-of-37 (.243) in WCHA play to rank second.
• The Beavers enter their series versus UAA riding a three-game PPG streak—their first since a string of three games from Oct. 28-Nov 4, during which BSU was 5-for-14 (.357).
• BSU has allowed three or more goals nine times this season and is 1-7-1 in those games.
• Bemidji State is 3-3-3 at home in 2017-18 and have averaged 3.11 goals per game, while netting just 2.71 per game on the road. BSU’s special teams on home ice have been tremendous. Its power-play unit is 9-for-33 (.273) and its penalty-kill squad is 27-for-30 (.900) to rank among the top 10 in the nation on home ice in both categories.
• Bemidji State continues WCHA play this weekend as it hosts Alaska Anchorage. The Beavers are 12-2-4 versus the Seawolves since the series got its start Nov. 12, 2010 and holds a 7-1-2 advantage over UAA in games played at Sanford Center.
• Despite going 3-1-0 versus UAA a year ago, the Dec. 30 4-1 loss at Alaska Anchorage stands as BSU’s only loss to the Seawolves in the last 17 meetings between the teams (12-1-4).
• Over the course of the series, BSU has outscored UAA 3.44 to 2.06 with a 3.50 to 2.00 margin at Sanford Center.
• Gerry Fitzgerald leads all current Beavers versus UAA with 11 points (5g-6a) in 10 games. He also has two GWG versus UAA.
• Senior Jordan Heller has also enjoyed the UAA series over his career. He has four points (2g-2a) in nine games versus the Seawolves. That accounts for nearly 25-percent of his career scoring (7g-10a) and nearly 30-percent of his career goal scoring.
• Michael Bitzer is 7-1-0 all-time versus the Seawolves. He carries a 1.37 goals against average versus UAA into the series to go with a .931 save percentage and a pair of shutouts in eight appearances.
• BSU seeks its first WCHA victory since Nov. 4 (0-4-2) and looks for its second WCHA series victory of 2017-18. Last year BSU had seven WCHA series wins before Dec. 10 (13-1-2).