Beavers prepare to face Wisconsin in the NCAA East Regional Semifinal

Beavers prepare to face Wisconsin in the NCAA East Regional Semifinal
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Beavers prepare to face Wisconsin in the NCAA East Regional Semifinal

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- The Bemidji State University men's hockey team is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years and is set to open the single-elimination regional weekend matched up with University of Wisconsin (20-9-3) at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., at noon Friday.

Friday’s semifinal marks the first time BSU and Wisconsin have gone head-to-head since the teams met as Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivals in 2011-12. The Badgers own a 6-0-1 advantage in the series, which includes a 4-0 victory over the Beavers in the semifinal round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament--the only previous postseason meeting between the teams.

Ranked 15th in the most recent USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine national poll, BSU is 15-9-3 overall and holds down the No. 4 seed after earning its second automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. At 20-9-3 overall, the Badgers finished atop the Big Ten standings and enters the East Regional toting the No. 4 ranking in the nation.

The winner of the BSU/UW contest will face the winner of the second regional semifinal between University of Massachusetts and Lake Superior State University in the regional championship at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Bemidji State notables:
• Bemidji State earned its second at-large bid to the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament Sunday, being seeded fourth in the East Regional. BSU will face the region’s top seed University of Wisconsin in the semifinal round. 

• The 2021 tournament marks Bemidji State’s fifth trip to the NCAA Division I Tournament (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010). BSU is 2-4 in tournament play, including a 2009 trip to the Frozen Four.

• The Beavers appeared the USA Today/USA Hockey magazine top 15 poll again this week earning  the No. 15 billing. Its the second straight week BSU has been ranked and marked the third time this season BSU has been among the top 15 in the poll. 

• BSU has been ranked in the poll for 11 weeks this season and has been among the top 20 seven of the last eight weeks and is No. 14 this week. BSU climbed to a season-best No. 13 March 15--its highest rank since it was No. 10 Mar. 2, 2020.

• BSU enters the NCAA semifinals having won six of its last eight games and has outscored its opponents 22-15 over that span (2.75-1.88 gpg).

• Bemidji State’s 12 wins since Jan. 8 are tied for fourth-most nationally during that time, trailing only Wisconsin (14), Minnesota State (13), and Army (12).

• Fifty-nine percent (16-of-27) of BSU’s opponents this season were ranked in the USCHO Top-20 at the time of the contest. BSU was 9-5-2 in those games and won six straight versus ranked opponents between Jan. 8-Feb. 20.

• BSU is 5-4-1 against teams ranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Top-10, including a 4-1-0 mark over its last five contests.

• Ethan Somoza netted his team-leading 13th goal of the season Friday in the WCHA semifinal. Since Feb. 13 he has 10 points, which includes seven goals (7g-3a).

• Not only has Somoza more than doubled his career goal scoring total to 25 goals with 13 in 27 games this season, he remains just one point from his career-high point total set a year ago (6g-12a).

• Owen Sillinger made his return to the BSU lineup after missing nine games, March 12. In the three game since, he has netted a pair assist. With 14 points (9g-5a), he ranks fifth on the team in scoring despite playing in just 18 games. 

• BSU’s leading scorer Alex Ierullo recorded a goal and two assists March 12-13 to surpass his single-season scoring mark set a year ago (7g-14a). He ranks 13th among  the WCHA’s top scorers while his 16 helpers is fifth among the league’s top scorers.

• Ierullo’s March 12 game-winning goal was his team-leading fourth of the season and tied him for third in the WCHA.

• Senior Brendan Harris has surpassed the 20-point plateau (8g-12a) for the first time in his career. He has 10 points (2g-8a) in BSU’s last 12 games.

• BSU’s top scoring rookie Lukas Sillinger posted his 15th point of the season (6g-9a) March 13 to rank second among WCHA rookies. He has eight points (2g-6a) in BSU’s last 10 games.

• Brothers Owen and Lukas Sillinger have had the unique opportunity to be teammates this season. Owen set up his younger brother’s first collegiate goal Dec. 12.  A hockey family, heir father, Mike, played for 12 teams during his 17-year NHL career.

• Lake Superior State was 0-for-2 on the man advantage in the WCHA semifinal March 19. On the season, BSU moves to 70-for-75 (.933) to top the national penalty-kill chart after a 40-for-43 (.930) run in WCHA play to pace the league.

• No NCAA team has allowed fewer than the five power-play goals BSU has surrendered this season (70-of-75). 

• This season, the BSU penalty kill has been historically good. On the heels of program records set a year ago of 11 PPG allowed and a .912 penalty-kill percentage, BSU has done it again. This year, BSU is in line to allow the fewest power-play goals in program history and its .933 penalty-kill mark would also set a new standard.

• Since the beginning of the 2019-20 season, the BSU penalty-kill unit has snuffed out opponent power plays at a 92-percent clip (173-of-188). No team in the country is even close to that mark. 

• BSU opens the East Regional semifinal having snuffed out 25 of its opponents’ last 27 power-play chances, which includes a run of 14 straight kills entering it’s matchup with Wisconsin’s top-ranked power-play unit (31.5%).

• BSU’s PK percentage this season (.932) ranks second in NCAA Division I men’s hockey history. Only Yale’s 2016 team posted a better mark at .944 (85-for-90).

• BSU posted a power-play goal on its last opportunity of its March 19 WCHA semifinal. The Beavers are now 13-for-83 (.157) on the season, while they finished 9-for-43 (.209) on the man advantage in WCHA play to rank third.

Somoza’s power-play goal March 19 snapped a string of 14 opportunities without a  goal on the man advantage dating back to the second period March 3. The Beavers went 2-for-2 on the power play that evening.

• Alex Ierullo leads all current Beavers in power-play scoring with six points (1g-5a) and a team-high five assists on the man advantage.

With 16 stops March 19, Zach Driscoll surpassed Dan Bakala (2,379 - 2008-12) for fifth place on BSU’s all-time saves list. His 2,388 saves remain 269  out of fourth place (Chuck Scanlon 2,657-1971-75). 

Driscoll’s 713 saves this season paced the WCHA and ranks second in the nation behind only Michigan State’s Drew DeRidder. 

• With 33 saves March 12, Driscoll picked up his 50th collegiate win, which includes a 6-6-1 mark at St. Cloud State  in 2016-17.

• In the sunset of his senior season, Driscoll has cemented himself as one of BSU’s greatest backstops. His career 2.17 GAA ranks second at BSU all-time, while his .915 save percentage is fourth.

• BSU is 15-1-3 when tied or leading after 40 minutes this season. On the other hand, BSU is 0-8-0 when trailing to open the third period.

• BSU’s juniors have netted 72 points (28g-44a) to lead the scoring push. Its senior skaters have a team-best 31 goals to go with 40 assists to sit second with 71 points.  It’s sophomore class has 28 points (8g-28a) and freshman 23 points (9g-14a).

• BSU has held its opponents to one goal or fewer in 12 of its 27 games this season. It is 11-0-1 in those games. 

• The Beavers have allowed a BSU Division I-era low record of 63 goals in 2020-21. It's previous record was 71 set a year ago.

• BSU is 5-4-3 away from Sanford Center this season and have averaged 3.08 goals per game, while they have allowed 2.50.

• Away from Sanford Center in 2020-21 BSU has netted 7 of its 12 power-play goals and is 7-for-42 (.167). On the flip side, the Beavers are 30-for-33 on the penalty kill (.909) on the road.

• Alex Ierullo leads all BSU players in point production on the road this season. The junior has 11 points (3g-8a), which includes a team-high eight assists in road games.

• Ethan Somoza has eight  goals on road ice to lead BSU in 2020-21. Owen Sillinger also has a team-best four power-play goals and BSU’s only short-handed goal on the road.

• Senior Ethan Somoza became the first native of California to wear the “C” for BSU when he was named captain this season. He is joined by seniors Brad Johnson and Tyler Vold and junior Owen Sillinger, who are alternate captains in 2020-21.

• Sophomore blueliner Elias Rosén became the first BSU player to WCHA Defensive Player of the Year recognition to cap 2020-21. On the heels of a season during which he netted 24 points (5g-19a) to pull down WCHA All-Rookie Team and Third Team All-WCHA honors, the native of Mora, Sweden enters the NCAA Tournament with 14 points (4g-10a). 

• Goaltender Zach Driscoll was selected as the 2021 WCHA Student-Athlete of the year, marking the first time a BSU player has earned an honor of the type since Kyle Hardwick earned the award in 2009--the final year of BSU’s run in College Hockey America. Driscoll graduate with a business administration degree in 2020 and carried a 3.85 undergraduate GPA. He is now a full-time grad student with a 4.0 pursuing his MBA.

• BSU had three players selected for All-WCHA teams in 2021. Elias Rosén became just the third Beaver to earn a spot on the All-WCHA First Team, while Zach Driscoll was selected to the All-WCHA Third Team and freshman Lukas Sillinger was named to the league’s All-Rookie squad. Both Rosén (Third Team and All-Rookie) and Driscoll (Second Team) also received All-WCHA recognition in 2019-20.

• With four goals as a junior, Ross Armour has two game-winners. He scored the game-winner in a 2-1 win at Michigan Tech Feb. 20 and a 4-3 overtime win versus Minnesota State Feb. 27. Alex Ierullo leads all BSU players with four game-winning goals. 

• BSU is 0-1 versus UW in NCAA postseason play. The Beavers and the Badgers met in 2006 Midwest Regional. Wisconsin handed BSU a 4-0 loss on its way to its sixth NCAA title.

• In a series that got its start in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin owns a 6-0-1 edge in the all-time series which includes a 1-0-0 advantage in neutral-site contests.

• From 2020-11 to 2011-12 the Beavers and Badgers were both members of the WCHA. Wisconsin earned a 5-0-1 edge in those games.

• Friday’s East Regional semifinal match up will mark the first time the teams have met since UA posted a 4-2 victory to complete a WCHA series sweep over BSU at Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn.

• In the seven previous meetings, the Badgers hold a 3.14 goals per game average while allowing BSU 1.43 goals per game.

• At the NCAA Division I level BSU is 20-31-1 in the postseason.

•BSU is 2-1 in the postseason this year. After earning the fourth seed and the right to host the first round of the WCHA Playoffs, BSU swept Michigan Tech (W, 4-1 and W, 3-1) to advance to the WCHA semifinal for the second consecutive season and third time since the program became a member of the WCHA for the 2010-11 campaign. The Beavers were eliminated by Lake Superior State University (L, 4-1)--the East Region’s No. 2 seed.

•Alex Ierullo leads BSU in postseason scoring this season averaging a point per game, netting a game-winning goal and a pair of assists in three games in 2020-21. 

• Owen Sillinger has produced BSU’s best career postseason point production. In eight career postseason appearances, the junior has seven points (3g-4a), which includes a 2019-20 postseason during which he netted two goals and two assists in three postseason contests.

• Bemidji State has made four trips to the NCAA Division I Tournament (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010). BSU is 2-4 in tournament play, including a 2009 trip to the Frozen Four.