Gophers hand Bemidji State first loss on season
MINNEAPOLIS - All good things must come to an end.
No. 7-ranked Bemidji State was defeated by Minnesota 4-1 Saturday night at Mariucci Arena. The first loss of the season ended the Beavers' unbeaten streak at eight games.
Minnesota won the game on special teams by scoring twice on the man advantage and shutting down Bemidji State's power play during a key stretch in the second period.
"They won the special teams battle and usually in hockey when you win the special teams battle, you win the hockey game," Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. "I can't remember the last time we played here, but I do know it's probably one of the most complete games we've ever played in this building."
Bemidji State (7-1-1 overall, 4-0 WCHA) scored quickly when freshman Jordan George beat Minnesota goalie Alex Kangas on an unassisted goal three minutes into the game.
But Nico Sacchetti answered one minute later to start Minnesota's run of four unanswered goals. Mike Hoeffel, Jordan Schroeder and Mike Carman also scored for Minnesota (4-4-1 overall, 3-4-1 WCHA).
The two teams wrap up the weekend series Sunday at 6:05 p.m. at Mariucci Arena.
Bemidji State goalie Dan Bakala finished with 25 saves and Kangas had 21.
Kangas was brilliant for the Gophers midway through the second period, shutting down Bemidji State's five-on-three power play that lasted for two minutes, 27 seconds.
Bemidji State trailed 2-1 at the time and desperately tried to score the equalizer. Kangas was there every time, even when a shot from George danced in the crease.
"I thought we played all right. The difference in the game was just in special teams," Bemidji State's Tyler Lehrke said. "The difference was we couldn't capitalize on that power play when we had our chances and they stole the momentum there a little bit."
The Beavers still had a chance at the start of the third period, but Schroeder's power-play goal with 7:25 remaining put the Gophers up 3-1 and the game out of reach for BSU.
Power plays were the story for Minnesota Saturday and the Gophers were 2-for-7 on the man advantage. The Gophers played on the power play for more than six minutes in the second period.
BSU was 0 for 4 on the power play.
"I thought we skated with them pretty well when we were five-on-five, but the second-period penalties put us on the edge and they were able to score those big power play goals," Lehrke said.
Bemidji State found it difficult to rally in the third period as Minnesota played back in a patient defensive style to counter the speed of Bemidji State's forwards. BSU was outshot 13-7 in the third period.
"They're a strong team and it was tough for us to penetrate tonight because there was not a lot of room on the out there on the ice," Serratore said.
It was Hoeffel's power-play goal at 4:37 of the second period that stood as the game winner.
Carman beat Bakala with a long wrist shot with 5:31 remaining to put Minnesota up 4-1 and it sealed the victory for the Gophers.
Bemidji State was not without its highlights and it started with George's goal.
He picked up a loose puck after a turnover at the blue line, skated in alone on Kangas and beat him glove side. BSU also generated a handful of quality scoring chances during the second-period five-on-three power play.
"Bemidji State showed why they've only lost two or three games in the last 20-plus," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "They are a very good team and they get around the rink really well. They are a team that is ready for the WCHA. We had to work hard for our win tonight and that's what we expected we would have to do. It was a hard fought win."
When Lehrke was asked how Bemidji State would respond for Sunday's game, he felt confident the Beavers will bounce back.
"We just need to keep it simple and play our game," Lehrke said. "We need to play strong, fundamental hockey."