Bemidji, Minn. - Goaltender Dan Bakala (Jr., Calgary, Alberta) collected 17 saves and senior forwards Emil Billberg (Stockholm, Sweden) and Ian Lowe (Bradwardine, Manitoba) each posted a goal and an assist as the Bemidji State University men's ice hockey team blanked Northern Michigan University, 4-0, to salvage a nonconference series split at the Bemidji Regional Event Center Saturday.
"I thought tonight was a 60-minute effort for our team," said BSU Head Coach Tom Serratore. "I was very proud of the way the guys came out on the first two shifts. I think we had a lot of energy and that set the tone for the whole game."
Although the Beavers failed to record a goal during the opening 20 minutes of the contest, they enforced a fast-paced, physical style of play that would wear the Wildcats down as the game progressed.
Bemidji State began to reap the benefits of its high-motor play in the second period. The Beavers out shot NMU 19-3 in the stanza, had three power-play opportunities and exited the frame with a 2-0 lead.
Billberg, who was inserted on the wing of BSU's top line Saturday, got the Beavers on the board just 94 seconds into the period. Alternate captain Ryan Adams (Sr., D, Deloraine, Manitoba) won a battle in the corner and made a pass out of the Wildcats' zone to Lowe. The senior forward skated the puck into the offensive zone and fired a shot from right face-off circle that was kicked out by NMU goaltender Reid Ellingson directly to Billberg who was on the doorstep an deposited the puck into a virtually open net.
The goal, which would stand as the game-winner, was all the offense the Beavers would need as Bakala and BSU's team defense shut down Northern Michigan. In addition to Bakala's 17 saves, BSU limited the Wildcats' offensive chances will good puck pressure and blocked 10 shots.
Midway though the period, the Beavers' would see their lead swell to 2-0 as BSU would capitalize on its second power-play opportunity of the evening.
With C.J. Ludwig in the penalty box for tripping, Scott Macaulay was booked for high sticking at the 12:33 setting up a 57-second 5-on-3 chance. Jordan George (So., F, Madison, Wis.) and the Beavers' power-play unit would need just 24 seconds to see their lead swell to 2-0. Brad Hunt (Jr., D, Ridge Meadows, British Columbia) and Billberg were credited with assists on the play as Hunt unleashed a shot from the point that deflected off Billberg onto the stick of George who potted his fifth goal of the season.
Lowe added an insurance goal, 3-0, with just 46 seconds to play in the game when he picked up an errant pass in the neutral zone and made NMU pay for pulling their goaltender.
Holding the Wildcats scoreless on both of their power-play opportunities, the Beavers' penalty-kill unit completed the weekend snuffing out all six of their power-play chances, while the team's power-play crew was 1-for-5 on the man advantage Saturday and 1-for-8 on the weekend.
Bakala, improved to 2-4-0 on the season posting the fourth shutout of his career.
Ellingson made 34 saves in 58:53 between the pipes for NMU. He falls to 4-5-1 in 2010-11.
Tonight's win versus Northern Michigan gives the edge in the all-time series back to the Beavers. BSU is 2-1-1 versus the Wildcats since the series began just a year ago.
Three of the four games in the history of the BSU/NMU series have been shutouts. BSU won a 5-0 affair in Marquette, Mich. Oct. 24, 2009 before the Wildcats blanked the Beavers last night, 4-0 and BSU put up the win tonight.
Next up for Bemidji State, now 3-8-1 overall and 2-7-1 in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play, is nationally-ranked University of Nebraska Omaha. The Mavericks, who are also in their first season as members of the WCHA, come into the league series 9-2-1 overall and 6-2-1 in the WCHA. The series is set to start with a 7;37 p.m. opening face-off Friday and will wrap up with a 7:07 p.m. contest Saturday.
The Bemidji State University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) will host its annual Teddy Bear Toss in conjunction with its Hat and Mitten Drive at BSU athletic events Friday and Saturday.
Fans are encouraged to donate winter hats, mittens, gloves and other cold-weather gear at the door each night, while they are invited to bring teddy bears or other stuffed animals, wrapped in clear plastic bags to the men's and women's hockey games Saturday. When the Beavers score their first goal of each game, those in attendance will have an opportunity to toss their teddy bear and/or stuffed animal donation(s) onto the ice.
Stuffed animals collect will be directed to Bemidji Law Enforcement, while winter gear will benefit the St. Phillips Outreach Program. Each organization will distribute goods to children and families in Bemidji, Minn. and the surrounding area this holiday season.