Bitzer extends hockey career to professional ranks

Bitzer extends hockey career to professional ranks
Thursday, March 8, 2018
Bitzer extends hockey career to professional ranks

BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Steelheads, East Coast Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, have announced that Bemidji State University’s all-time saves leader Michael Bitzer has signed a contract to play out the remainder of the 2017-18 season.

The Moorhead, Minn. native, who was in uniform for the Steelheads Wednesday, could make his professional debut as early as Friday when Boise host the Kansas City Mavericks at CenturyLink Arena-Boise.

Bitzer will play out the remainder of the season with the Steelheads, which includes 13 regular-season games and potential playoff run. The Steelheads are currently second in the ECHL’s Mountain Division at 33-19-4-3 and fourth in the Western Conference.

Making an appearance in 37 of 38 games as a senior, Bitzer posted a record of 16-13-8 with a 2.24 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. The senior piled up 819 saves, which included a career-best 45 stops in a shutout tie and shootout victory at then-No. 9 University of Minnesota Duluth, Oct. 14. Bitzer led the WCHA in games, minutes played and shutouts. He backstopped a penalty kill unit that was consistently among the nation’s leaders, finishing the 2017-18 season sixth in the country at .865 (115/133), while it paced the WCHA at .888 (87/96).

In 138 collegiate appearances, Bitzer established himself as one of the greatest to ever wear the green and white. The 2016-17 AHCA All-America First Team West selection and Mike Richter Award and Hobey Baker Award finalist left BSU atop its all-time saves list (3,165), as the program’s leader in career save percentage (.921), goals against average (1.98) and minutes played (6,031), while he is second in victories (65). In addition, he holds the BSU and WCHA record and ranks second on the NCAA career shutouts list with 21.

A three-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete honoree and member of the WCHA All-Academic Team, Bitzer was the 2016-17 WCHA Player of the Year, an All-WCHA First Team pick and won the league’s goaltending championship. He was also selected as the WCHA Rookie of the Year and placed on the WCHA All-Rookie Team to cap the 2014-15 campaign, while he was a 16-time WCHA weekly award winner during his Bemidji State career.

The Beavers finished the 2017-18 campaign with an overall record of 16-14-8 overall and recorded a 13-9-6-4 record in WCHA play, to earn fourth place in the WCHA standings and the right to host the first round of the WCHA Playoffs for the third time in four years.

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).