OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Bemidji State University goaltender Michael Bitzer is one of 10 NCAA Division I student-athletes named as a candidate for the 2017-18 Senior CLASS Award in collegiate hockey.
In 32 appearances and 1,895:51 minutes between the pipes, the 2016-17 WCHA Player of the Year and All-WCHA First Team selection has compiled a record of 15-10-7. He made 684 saves for a .908 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.18 to go with five shutouts to rank third in the nation. He backstopped a BSU defense that ranked third in the WCHA with a goals allowed per game mark of 2.33 and a penalty-kill unit that leads the WCHA (.890) and has been among the top five in the country all season (.880). A year ago, he was a Hobey Baker Memorial Award Top 10 finalist as well as one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award, annually given to the nation’s top goaltender. He capped the season being named First Team All-American West by the American Hockey Coaches Association.
Bitzer cemented his place among BSU’s greatest goaltenders. He is the first BSU goalie to record at least 22 wins since Steve O’Shea in 1986-87, owns the BSU and WCHA career shutouts record and is second in NCAA history with 21 career shutouts. He sits atop BSU’s career goaltending lists with a .922 save percentage and a 1.95 goals against average. In addition, Bitzer is second on BSU’s all-time saves list (3,030) and is second on the Beaver Hockey victories list (64).
Off the ice, Bitzer has been involved as a volunteer gardener with the Bemidji Area Food Shelf. He has also spent time working with the Little Lady Lumberjacks, a youth program geared towards getting girls in the Bemidji area involved in hockey and developing girls hockey in general. He has also served meals at local elementary schools as a part of the “Hockey Opera” project, and helped fellow Bemidji State classmates into the dorms as a part of the BSU campus move in. In addition, he has mentored youth hockey players at Branham Hockey Camps as an off-ice instructor and on-ice goalie coach.
An exercise science major with a minor in health promotion, Bitzer is on track to graduate in the spring of 2018 with a 3.84 grade point average.
To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School ®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
The original 20 candidates were narrowed to 10 finalists and placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one candidate who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition. Fans are encouraged to submit votes online at the Senior CLASS Award website through March 26. Fan votes will be combined with those of the media and Division I head coaches to determine the winners
The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2017 NCAA Men’s Frozen Final Four® in April.
A year ago, former Beaver Hockey player, Brendan Harms was the first BSU student-athlete to earn the Senior CLASS Award.
Here is a complete list of candidates for the 20161-17 Senior Class Award for men’s hockey: Dylan Abood, Air Force; Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State; Jake Evans, Notre Dame; Brady Ferguson, Robert Morris, Karson Kuhlman, Minnesota Duluth; Mitch McLain, Bowling Green; Judd Peterson, St. Cloud State; Sam Plazza, Michigan; Austin Poganski, North Dakota; Ryan Schmeilzer, Canisius.
Last season Brendan Harms became the first Bemidji State student-athlete to win the coveted award when he was announced as the 2016-17 men’s hockey recipient during the 2017 Frozen Four.
BSU, now 15-11-3 overall and 12-8-5-3 in WCHA play, holds down fourth place in the WCHA standings. The Beavers host Alaska tonight. Opening face off for the final regular-season home game is set for 7:07 p.m. from Sanford Center.
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 (NSIC).