This game got out to a bit of a sloppy start, especially for the Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth. Both teams had a difficult time controlling the puck early and connecting on seemingly simple passes, but the Bemidji State beavers had the better of the play from the start. They were able to put bottle the Bulldogs up in their own zone and had four shots on goal before Duluth managed their first more than five minutes into the game. The Beavers did a nice job of controlling the neutral zone early.
The Beavers finally broke through on their second powerplay of the game. Senior Captain Matt Prapavessis sniped a snap shot through a pair of forwards and beat Kassimer Kasisuo over his right shoulder.
Immediately after, Markus Gerbrandt leveled UMD's Kyle Osterberg in the offensive zone and was assessed a five minute major penalty for charging. It was a monstrous hit, but I'm not sure it warranted a major penalty. Osterberg immediately left the bench area after the hit, but returned for the second period.
The ensuing powerplay allowed the Bulldogs to take the lead in shot on goal, surpassing Bemidji's eight. They didn't capitalize on the opportunity, however, and Bemidji took their 1-0 lead into the first intermission and a 10-9 shots advantage.
Duluth played a pretty slow period, at least compared to what we saw out of them in their series against Minnesota a couple of months ago. Bemidji owned the majority of the zone time (except for the five-minute powerplay) so I was surprised to see that Duluth attempted more shots in the first period.
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NSCC Must Reads
They turned it around in to start the second period, and poured pressure on Beavers goaltender Michael Bitzer.
Bemidji expanded its lead halfway through the second period when two of the Fitzgerald triplets scored on a two-on-one break. Gerry Fitzgerald entered the zone with the puck on the right side, made a nice pass to his brother Leo, and Leo buried it behind Kaskisuo. That score would hold through the end of the period.
Duluth attempted another 18 shots, but Bemidji blocked four of those. The Bulldogs missed wide on four more. Surprisingly, the Bulldog with the most shots on goal at the end of two periods was junior defenseman Andy Welinski, whose rights are owned by the Anaheim Ducks. My insider tell me that some pro scouts think he's the most talented defender in D-I hockey.
Two minutes into the third, BSU defender Sam WIndle scored his first goal of the season on a shot from the point off a pass from Phillip Marinaccio. Kaskisuo was screened by traffic on the play, and it was the third goal on the right side of his net.
Duluth had some chances in the third period; at one point they had a 5-on-3 powerplay. Bemidji killed both penalties without allowing any significant scoring chances.
Shortly thereafter, Kyle Bauman stole the puck from a UMD defender at the Bulldog's blue line, broke in, made a deke, and snuck a backhand under Kaskiuo's blocker. Four goals on his right side. It was the second goal of the period scored by Bemidji's fourth line of forwards.
A big part of Bemidji's success in this game was due to special teams. Duluth was 0-5 on the powerplay, including the five minute major and the 5-on-3 opportunity. The Bulldogs have struggled with the man-advantage all season long, converting at just an 18% clip, and this game is indicative of that trend.
Bemidji may not have dominated the game based on the eye test, but they converted their chances into goals, and they didn't make any big mistakes in the defensive zone. It also didn't hurt that Bitzer was perfect on all 27 shots on goal, and that the skaters blocked a bunch of shots in front of him.
The Beavers move on to the NSCC Championship game tomorrow evening. The Bulldogs will play in the third place game in the afternoon.
The bad news is this: if the Golden Gophers upset #1 Minnesota State, Mankato tonight, they'll play an unranked team in the NSCC championship, depriving them of an opportunity at any quality wins bonus they might have added to their RPI by defeating Duluth in the championship. On, if the Gophers lose tonight, they'll have a shot at a sputtering UMD team tomorrow.