CHANHASSEN, Minn. – Bemidji State University Senior Michael Bitzer is one of 20 collegiate goaltenders that has been placed on the 2017-18 Mike Richter Award watch list by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation.
The award, which is in its fifth year, annually honors the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey.
The winner will be announced at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in St. Paul.
Criteria for the Mike Richter Award include: Candidates must display outstanding skills on the ice, good academic standing at an NCAA college or university, academic achievement and sportsmanship, compliance with all NCAA rules; be full-time students at an NCAA college or university; and completing in 50-percent or more of the season. Consideration will be given to the candidate’s activities in the community.
Bitzer, a CCM First-Team All-American, All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association First Team selection and WCHA Player of the Year in 2016-17 opens 2017-18 as the league’s coaches’ preseason All-WCHA goaltender. A year ago, he earned the WCHA’s goaltending award after backstopping a league-best scoring defense (1.57 GPG) and leading the WCHA in goals against average (1.40), save percentage (.940) and wining percentage (.778). A four-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Week recipient, Bitzer also garnered one of the NCAA’s Three Stars after posting back-to-back shutouts at Northern Michigan, Oct. 14-15. He was also named as one of the top 10 for the 2016-17 Hobey Baker Memorial Award in addition to being one of five finalists for the 2017 Mike Richter Award.
In 39 appearances and an NCAA-high 2,355.22 minutes between the pipes in 2016-17, Bitzer compiled a record of 22-14-3. He made 912 saves on 979 shots faced for a .932 save percentage (3rd) and the nation’s best goals against average (1.71) to go with an NCAA-best six shutouts. He has backstopped a BSU defense that ranks second in the country with a goals allowed per game mark of 1.93 and a penalty-kill unit that has been among the top two in the country all season (.880).
Bitzer has also cemented his place among BSU’s greatest goaltenders through three seasons. In 2016-17, he became the first BSU goaltender to record at least 22 wins since Steve O’Shea in 1986-87, he owns the BSU career shutouts record (16), matched his own BSU single-season record with six in 2016-17, and sits atop BSU’s career goaltending lists with a .925 save percentage and a 1.88 goals against average. In addition, Bitzer ranks first on BSU’s all-time goaltending minutes played list with 6,031.19, is fifth on BSU’s all-time saves list (2,346) and is ninth on the Beaver Hockey victories list (49).
Since joining the Beaver Hockey program, the native of Moorhead, Minn., has led BSU to its first WCHA regular-season title, three consecutive WCHA Playoff appearances and a 2015 North Star College Cup championship.
The 2016-17 campaign marks the third season, Bitzer has appeared on the list. He earned a spot among the top 20 prior to the 2015-16 campaign and again in 2016-17, where he advanced to the finalist stage.
Members of Let’s Play Hockey, utilizing both past performance and future potential, choose goalies on the Mike Richter Award watch list. Freshmen are not included.
Finalists for the Mike Richter Award, and eventually, its winner, will be determined a committee of coaches, scouts and members of the media.
Past winners of the award include: Tanner Jaillet of Denver (2017), Thatcher Demko of Boston College (2016), North Dakota’s Zane McIntyre (2015) and Connor Hellebuyck of UMass-Lowell (2014).
Bemidji State opens its 2017-18 schedule with an Oct. 13-14 home-and-home series with regional rival University of Minnesota Duluth. The Beavers then begin the defense of their 2016-17 league title Oct. 27-28 when BSU hosts Ferris State University at Sanford Center for a WCHA series.
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).