BEMIDJI, Minn. (Sanford Center) -- Down 1-0 to No. 4 University of Nebraska Omaha after nearly two periods of play, the Bemidji State University men's ice hockey team used a power-play goal by Ian Lowe (Sr., F, Bradwardine, Manitoba) with 0.7 left in the second as a springboard to a 3-1 victory and its first Western Collegiate Hockey Association series sweep Saturday at the Sanford Center.
"It definitely feels great," commented sophomore forward Aaron McLeod (So., F, Ottawa, Ontario), who was responsible for the game-winning goal. "Nebraska Omaha is one of the top teams in the nation right now so its definitely good to get two wins off of them." He added, "I thought we executed well in the last 10 minutes of the second period and then going into the third period we continued to skate and we got the win with was huge."
"We needed to start establishing ourselves at home. We really dug a hole for ourselves at home during the first half of the year," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "We weren't necessarily coming into the weekend looking to sweep, we just wanted to play good hockey. That is what it is all about.
"The fans saw 120 minutes of not only great Beaver hockey, but exciting hockey this weekend. It was WCHA hockey at its finest." Serratore continued, "The pace was great, there were a lot of great players on the ice, there were plays being made and it was physical. In all aspects of the game, it was just exciting hockey."
The Mavericks drew first blood when Johnnie Searfoss fired an odd-angle shot from the goal line extend and the puck bounced off BSU goaltender Dan Bakala's (Jr., Calgary, Alberta) right shoulder before finding the back of the net. The goal snapped a streak of 134:14 flawless play between the pipes for Bakala, stretching back to Nov. 12, but that was all the Mavericks' top-ranked offensive attack would manage as the junior netminder buckled down and turned away 39 UNO shots in 60:00 minutes of play to even his record at 4-4-0 on the season.
Bemidji State played from behind for most of the second period and had a pair of unsuccessful power-play opportunities early, but when UNO's Eric Olimb was whistled for high-sticking with just 1:14 left in the frame, it would provide the Beavers with the spark they needed to jump back into the game. BSU's leading scorer Jordan George (So., F, Madison, Wis.) skated the puck into the zone with just seconds to go, he centered the puck to Matt Read (Sr., F, Ilderton, Ontario) in the slot who redirected the pass to Lowe who was on the doorstep to tap the puck into the net with less than a second remaining in the stanza to send the Beavers to the locker room with the score knotted 1-1.
Bemidji State returned to an electric Robert H. Peters Rink after the second intermission. The Beavers used the excitement to fuel play during the first few minutes of play and struck again 3:14 into the third. Sophomore center Aaron McLeod (Ottawa, Ontario) scored the go ahead goal after he intercepted a outlet pass from a UNO defender in the near corner and fired a shot from the left face off dot for his first goal of the season.
BSU would manufacture another goal with just over four minutes to play (15:31), when Ryan Cramer (Sr., F, International Falls, Minn.) found Jamie MacQueen (Jr., F, St. Thomas, Ontario) in the slot from behind the net. MacQueen tipped the pass to George crashing the far post and the sophomore potted his sixth marker of the season. The Beavers would ride the momentum and the emotion of the 3,737 in attendance to the two-goal victory.
The Beavers' special teams play was on target again tonight. In addition to the power-play goal by Lowe in the second, BSU's penalty-kill unit held the Mavericks scoreless on three man advantage opportunities. Bemidji State has not allowed a power-play goal in seven of its last nine games and is riding a streak of 33:33 of penalty time without allowing a goal.
Although the Beavers earned the sweep, UNO continues to hold an edge in the all-time series 5-3-0, but the Beavers are perfect versus UNO at home (2-0-0) and have gained victories in three of the last four meetings with the Mavericks.
BSU, 5-8-1 overall and 4-7-1 in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play, is back on the road Dec. 10-11 to close out the first half of the season with a trip to Madison, Wis. to battle the University of Wisconsin. The Beavers and Badgers will open the two-game set with a 7:07 p.m. opening face-off from the Kohl Center Friday and Saturday.