BEMIDJI, Minn. (Sanford Center) -- The Bemidji State University men's ice hockey team got a 25-save shutout from goaltender Dan Bakala (Jr., Calgary, Alberta), while sophomore Jake Areshenko (D, Port Cocquitlan, British Columbia) netted his first collegiate goal to push the Beavers past No. 4 University of Nebraska Omaha Friday at the Sanford Center.
BSU got scoring contributions from nine players, while solid team defense, good puck pressure and a water-tight penalty-kill unit held Maverick offense, averaging over 4.5 goals per game to rank second in the country, scoreless on six power-play opportunities.
"This was the best game we've played this year," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "We played 60 minutes, we played very well defensively and we had our share of offense so overall I could not be happier."
Bemidji State set the tone early getting an extra-attacker goal by Areshenko. When UNO's Pasko Skarica got caught holding a BSU skater midway through the first period, the Beavers saw a chance to get an extra skater on the ice. Brad Hunt (Jr., D, Ridge Meadows, British Columbia) dug the puck out of the corner and got it to Jamie MacQueen (Jr., F, St. Thomas, Ontario) who circled the zone before firing on net. Areshenko tipped the through goaltender John Faulkner's five hole from his post just outside the crease.
The goal turned out to be all the offense BSU would need as the BSU defense blocked 18 shots limiting UNO's quality opportunities and as the Beavers' last line of defense, Bakala was flawless.
"I think we came to play tonight and they just weren't ready for us in the first period," commented senior forward Ian Lowe (Bradwardine, Manitoba). "We knew they were going to bring a high-tempo game. We played a full 60 minutes and I think we out played them tonight."
"(Bakala) stood on his head tonight," added Areshenko. "Even in the third period he was flying all over the net making saves. It was big time."
Bakala's 25-save night was highlighted by a third period in which the junior faced a flurry of UNO shots, piling up 12 stops in the final frame alone to post his fifth career shutout.
After blanking opponents in his last two starts, Bakala has not allowed a goal in his last 124:40 between the pipes dating back to Nov. 12. Bakala improves to 3-4-0 on the season.
Leading 1-0, the Beavers were tested early in the second. Just 18 seconds into the frame, BSU lost its best top defense in Hunt. The junior was assessed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for checking from behind, setting the Mavericks up with their second power-play opportunity of the evening. But it would get worst for BSU. Struggling to kill off the major, Matt Read (Sr., F, Ilderton, Ontario) was sent to the box for hooking, serving up the Maverick's penalty-kill unit with more than 60 seconds of 5-on-3. But the BSU penalty-killers would stand tall igniting the 3,291 in attendance and fueling a second BSU goal.
Lowe accounted for his seventh goal of the season at the 6:25 mark of the second stanza. The senior displayed tremendous drive as he was denied on his first shot from the slot before crashing the net and stuffing the puck past the UNO goaltender. Jordan George (So., F, Madison, Wis.) and Brance Orban (So., F, Lethbridge, Alberta) were credited with assists on the play.
The Beavers' lead grew to 3-0 at the 8:32 mark of the third period when Emil Billberg (Sr., F, Stockholm, Sweden) scored his fourth goal of the season to put the game out of reach.
The solid play of Bemidji State's special teams gave the Beavers boost again tonight. In addition to posting a power-play goal in the second period, the BSU penalty-kill unit allowed just three shots on six UNO man advantage opportunities.
Despite taking the loss, UNO continues to hold an edge in the all-time series 5-2-0.
BSU, now 4-8-1 overall and 3-7-1 in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play, looks to gain its first sweep of the 2010-11 season tomorrow when it hosts the same No. 4 Nebraska Omaha squad for the series finale. The puck will hit the ice at 7:07 p.m.
The Bemidji State University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) will host its annual Teddy Bear Toss in conjunction with a Hat and Mitten Drive tomorrow.
Fans are encouraged to donate winter hats, mittens, gloves and other cold-weather gear at the door, while they are invited to bring teddy bears or other stuffed animals, wrapped in clear plastic bags to the game. When the Beavers score their first goal, 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.