BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (Webster Bank Arena) - Ethan Somoza scored twice and Brendan Harris recorded a goal and two assists to lead the Bemidji State University men's hockey team to its first NCAA Tournament victory since March 29, 2009. The fourth-seeded Beavers defeated top seeded University of Wisconsin, 6-3, in the East Regional Semifinal Friday afternoon at Webster Bank Arena to advance to the regional championship game for just the second time in program history.
The Beavers' smothering, physical defense held in check one of the nation's post potent offenses and talented scorers for nearly 50 minutes, but Cole Caufield began to reel the Beavers in with a pair of goals late in the third period. It was too little too late.
Bemidji State jumped out to a lead early. Elias Rosen protected the blue line by picking off a pass and funneling the puck to the net. Ross Armour was at the top of the crease to push his fifth goal of the season into the back of the net just 6:33 into the game.
Despite coming up short on a pair of power play chances in the frame, BSU took a 2-0 lead into the intermission. Rosen was again in the right place stepping in front of a zone exit pass and unleashing a rocket from the top of the right faceoff circle for his fifth goal of the season.
The Beavers top-ranked penalty-kill unit (93.3-percent) was tested early in the second. BSU had two infractions called during the first 1:43 of the period, which included 1:44 of 5-on-3 time versus the top power-play unit in the country at 31.9-percent. The Badgers needed just 54 seconds (2:38) to strike on a goal from Linus Weissbach. BSU snuffed out the second man-advantage opportunity and as Owen Sillinger skated out of the box he picked off a pass and drew a Badger penalty to set BSU up with a power-play opportunity of its own-it's third chance of the day.
Ethan Somoza netted his team-best and career-high fourth goal of the season at the 14:42 mark of the second. Aaron Miller dug the puck out of the deep corner and found the Beavers' captain on the left faceoff dot for a one-timer that made it through traffic and past the Wisconsin goaltender Robbie Beydoun.
Holding a 3-1 lead, Bemidji State's Brad Johnson was whistled for tripping at the 17:13 mark of the third testing the Beavers' penalty-kill unit again. BSU passed. Not only did it keep the puck out of the back of the net, it skated into the intermission holding a 4-1 edge. Owen Sillinger netted his second short-handed goal of the season at the 18:39 mark. The junior corralled the puck behind the net and wrapped it around for his 10th goal of 2020-21 and first since a four-goal outburst Feb. 2.
The goal chased Beydoun from the game after 40 minutes of play, four goals allowed and 26 saves.
As the third period got underway, Bemidji State added an insurance goal. Somoza scored his second of the game on a shot that mirrored his first. This time he took a pass from Brendan Harris and buried a one-timer from the left faceoff dot at the 6:08 mark of the frame to greet the new UW goaltender Cameron Rowe.
The Wisconsin power-play again struck to shrink the deficit to 5-2 at the 8:19 mark. Caulfield, the Hobey Baker Award front-runner, netted his 29th tally of the season on passes from Dylan Holloway and Ty Pelton-Byce. He added his 30th of the season with help from Roman Ahcan and Mike Vorlicky with 5:05 to play in the game.
As the clock reached two-minutes, the Badgers pulled their goaltender to get an extra attacker on the ice. The strategy was compounded when Somoza was escorted to the box with 37 second to play leaving BSU a man short. However, Harris made Wisconsin pay. He posted the Beavers' second short-handed goal of the game with two seconds on the clock.
The UW power-play unit may have gotten the best of the Beavers going 2-for-6 on the man advantage, but BSU's short-handed goals offset the edge and swung momentum solidly in BSU's favor. It also marked the first time BSU has posted multiple short-handed goals in a game since it nabbed two Jan. 6, 2018 in a 6-3 win at Lake Superior State.
Driscoll finished the afternoon with 30 saves and three goals allowed in the 60-minute victory. He improves to 15-9-3 on the season.
The Beavers, now 16-9-3 overall, will advance to the East Regional final to face the winner of the Lake Superior State University/University of Massachusetts semifinal Saturday. The regional championship matchup is set for a 4 p.m. (CDT) opening faceoff back in Bridgeport, Conn. and will air on ESPNU.