Regional Rivals clash in home-and-home series

Regional Rivals clash in home-and-home series
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Regional Rivals clash in home-and-home series

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team (11-6-5; 8-4-4-2 WCHA) returns to Sanford Center for its only home game in the month of January, Friday, as it hosts the University of North Dakota (2-6-2; 5-7-2-1 WCHA). Unbeaten in their last nine contests (6-0-3), the Beavers seek their first win over the Fighting Hawks since 2014.

The Beavers earned a series sweep of Lake Superior State Univerdity last weekend to record its fifth and sixth consecutive victories--coming within one of a BSU Division I-era record. The nine-goal weekend versus the Lakers matched a season-high for BSU, led by WCHA Offensive Player of the Week, Kyle Bauman, who recorded four points (2g-2a) in the series. With a career-high 24 points (8g-16a) Bauman leads the Beavers in scoring, which includes a career-best 16 assists, while Jay Dickman has a team- and career-high 11 goals and Gerry Fitzgerald has surpassed his career-best assist total with 17. Fitzgerald and Adam Brady have played a big role in BSU’s recent success. In the last five games, Fitzgerald has nine points (2g-7a) and Brady has accounted for eight (3g-5a). Since Dec. 2, senior goaltender Michael Bitzer is 6-0-3 with a 1.51 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. He has backstopped a penalty-kill unit that enters the weekend second in the country snuffing out 65 of its opponents’ 72 man advantage opportunities (.903). Bitzer has started in the Beavers’ net for 21-of-22 games and is 11-5-5 with a .911 save percentage, a 2.19 goals against average and is second among all NCAA Division I goaltenders with four shutouts.

The Fighting Hawks arrive in Bemidji, Minn., toting an identical 11-6-5 record and share the top spot in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings with St. Cloud State at 6-4-2-2. Ranked 7/8 in the national polls this week, UND split with Omaha a week ago, bouncing back from a 4-1 loss to blow the Mavericks out, 7-0, in the finale. The Fighting Hawk attack is averaging 2.91 goals per game and is led by defender Christian Wolanin, who has 18 points (6g-12a) and includes team-high totals for goals (6) and assists (12). Forward Nick Jones also has six goals and nine assists for 15 points, while Shane Gersich has poured in six goals and eight assists. While the UND goaltenders have shared netminding duties this season, senior Cam Johnson has appeared in 13-of-22 games and has accounted for seven of the Fighting Hawks wins. He is 7-4-2 overall with a 2.00 goal against average and a .909 save percentage.

The Rivalry
In a series that dates back to 1970, North Dakota holds a 30-3-4 advantage over BSU. The Beavers are 1-9-2 when hosting UND in Bemidji, Minn., while they are 2-21-2 on UND’s home ice in Grand Forks, N.D., which includes a 5-1 BSU victory to open the 2014-15 season at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Despite the win-loss differential, eight of the last 12 meetings between the teams have been decided by one goal or less. BSU is 2-7-3 in those games.

Bemidji State notables:
• BSU extended its winning streak to six games and stretched its unbeaten streak to nine with a 3-0 shut out and 6-3 win at Lake Superior State, Jan. 5-6. BSU moves to 11-6-5 overall and 8-4-4-2 in league play to hold fourth place in the league standings.

• BSU’s nine-game unbeaten streak is its longest since it went 10 games without a loss  (8-0-2) from Nov. 11-Dec. 29, 2006.

• BSU has now piled up six-game wining streaks four times since moving to the NCAA Division I level for the 1999-2000 season. The current streak is its longest since a seven-game string from Dec. 1-29, 2006— A BSU Division I-era record for consecutive wins.

• During its current streak (since Dec. 2), BSU has averaged 3.67 goals per game, while allowing just 1.56.

• Sophomore Adam Brady led the Beavers in scoring Friday, posting two assists. It was the fifth multi-point game of his collegiate career. He added an assist Saturday. He has eight points in BSU’s last five games (3g-5a).

• BSU is 9-1-1 when Brady logs a point and are unbeaten in the five games in which he has a goal (4-0-1).

•Gerry Fitzgerald has also netted a point in each of BSU’s last five games (2g-7a) and scored a goal in two of their last three.

• Zach Whitecloud logged an assist Friday and a goal Saturday to extend his point streak to four games. He has five points (3g-2a), including a pair of game-winners, in BSU’s last four contests.

• In his first appearance in the line up since Dec. 2, Dylan McCrory took only 64 seconds to net his first goal of the season, Friday.

• Saturday, freshman Ethan Somoza set a career mark posting a pair of assists. It was his first multi-point night as a collegiate player. He has three points (3a) in 18 games this season.

• Kyle Bauman finish the Jan. 5-6 series with four (2g-2a) points. In BSU’s last nine games Bauman has logged a point in seven and has totaled 11 points (2g-9a) with includes a pair of short-handed goals and a game-winner.

• Bauman recorded a pair of short-handed goals during the second period of Saturday’s five-goal frame.  He became the 14th WCHA player to  accomplish the feat, matching a league record, and the first since Derek Stepan, March 7, 2009.

• Bauman’s two short-handed goals Saturday also marked the first time BSU has had two shorties in a game since March 7, 2009.

• With a goal Saturday, junior Justin Buadry established new single-season highs for goals (4) and points (11).

• With eight goals this season, Charlie Combs is tied with Kyle Buaman for second on the team in goal scoring. His eight goals already tie him for 10th on BSU’s Division I-era freshman goal scoring list.

• BSU’s five second-period goals Saturday, marked the first time since the third period at Alaska-Anchorage Jan. 9, 2016 that the Beavers have posted a five-spot in 20 minutes of play.

• Kyle Bauman leads BSU in scoring on home ice. The senior has 16 points (5g-11a) in 13 games at Sanford Center this season.

• Since Dec. 2, Michael Bitzer is 6-0-3 with a 1.51 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. In BSU’s first 13 games, Bitzer was 4-5-2 with a 2.70 GAA and a .899 save percentage.

• Bitzer enters the non-conference series with 2,816 saves. Currently second on BSU’s all-time saves list, Bitzer is 248 stops behind all-time leader Steve O’Shea who has the BSU record with 3,065.

• At 60-46-16 in his BSU career, Bitzer surpassed Jack Horner (1975-78) for fifth place on BSU’s all-time victories list and is in sole possession of the BSU Division I-era victories lead. Mark Liska (1981-85) is fourth with 61.

• His 20 career shutouts is a BSU and WCHA all-time record. In addition, he equalled Vermont’s Joe Fallon (2005-08) for second on the NCAA all-time shut outs list and sits six behind Michigan State’s Ryan Miller, who recorded 26 shutouts from 1999-2002.

• The BSU penalty-kill unit was 8-for-9 Dec. 5-6 to move to 65-of-72 in 2017-18. The Beavers rank second in the country (.903) for the nation’s most efficient unit. At 48-of-53 (.906) BSU leads the WCHA.

• BSU was 2-for-8 on the power-play Dec. 5-6.  BSU is 20-of-84 (.238) to rank 10th in the country this season and is second in the WCHA at 16-of-64 (.250).

• Saturday’s 6-3 victory marked the first time since a 4-4 draw Dec. 9 that BSU has allowed more than a goal.

• BSU has allowed at least three goals 10 times in 2017-18 and is 2-7-1 in those games. When scoring three or more, BSU is 11-2-2.

• The Beavers turn from WCHA play this weekend to go head-to-head with No. 7/8 North Dakota in a home-and-home series. In a series that got its start Feb. 6, 1970, BSU trails North Dakota 30-3-4, which includes a 9-1-2 differential when playing in Bemidji and trailing UND 21-2-2 on its home ice.

• The Beavers look for their first victory over UND since Oct. 10, 2014 (5-1)— a streak spanning five games (0-4-1).

• North Dakota completely dominated the series from 1970-2011, but in the 13 games since Nov. 20, 2011, BSU has accounted for two of its three wins and three of it four ties and is 2-8-3.

• Gerry Fitzgerald leads all current BSU player in scoring versus North Dakota. The senior has seven points (3g-4a) in six games. Kyle Buaman has five points (2g-3a), which includes a power-play goal, in four games, while defender Justin Buadry has two assist sin four games versus UND.  That is nearly 10-percent of his career assist (21) scoring in just four games.

• In six career appearances versus North Dakota, Michael Bitzer is 1-4-1 with a 3.34 goals against average and .896 save percentage.