DULUTH – Saturday night’s game between the Bemidji State men’s hockey team and No. 15 Minnesota-Duluth turned into a battle between goaltenders.
BSU’s Dan Bakala and UMD’s Kenny Reiter traded saves until Jack Connolly broke the scoreless tie on a power-play goal with 8:39 left in the third period to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 win over the Beavers in front of 6,178 fans at Amsoil Arena.
“I was very happy with our guys tonight because we could have won the game,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “It was a game of inches tonight, a game of breaks and who got the last break. We were hard to play against. We executed and we had a lot of opportunities. Compared to the effort last night we were a better hockey team tonight.”
Bakala started for the first time in two games and had 27 saves. Kenny Reiter stopped all 23 BSU shots including a penalty shot in the second period for his seventh career shutout.
Bemidji State (3-5 overall, 2-3 WCHA) was swept by the Bulldogs (4-3-1 overall, 2-2 WCHA) in the series after losing 6-2 Friday night. The Beavers go back on the road to face Lake Superior State next weekend in Sault St. Marie, Mich. Game times Friday and Saturday are 6 p.m.
After a heavily whistled first period, the goalies were the stars of the second period. Bakala, who was playing for the first time since allowing three goals on the first four shots against Michigan Tech last Friday, had 13 saves in the second period.
“He played well, he tracked the puck well and we defended well tonight,” Serratore said. “Our defending was very good. When you’re taking away time and space it makes the goalie’s job a lot easier.”
Reiter had 11 saves in the period. His biggest stop came midway through the period when Brance Orban was taken down at the edge of the crease by Luke McManus and awarded a penalty shot.
Orban skated in fast to the net, hesitated with a shoulder move and Reiter stuck out his right leg to stop the low shot.
The Beavers lost Darcy Findlay in the opening minute of the third period when he was assessed a major penalty and game disqualification for a hit to the head on Connolly. Findlay returned Saturday after missing the last five games to an upper body injury.
BSU killed the ensuing power play and UMD did not get a shot on goal until there were seconds left in the power play. J.T. Brown rang a shot off the post in the opening seconds for UMD’s best chance.
The Bulldogs broke the tie by taking advantage of David Boehm’s tripping penalty when he and Travis Oleksuk fell to the ice contesting a loose puck at the BSU blue line. It was UMD’s fifth power play of the game.
Connolly scored on a give-and-go play with Mike Seidel. Connolly passed it to Seidel behind the goal line, went to the net and took the return pass at the edge of the circle to beat Bakala with 8:39 to play.
BSU defenseman Brady Wacker lost his stick seconds before the goal and that helped Connolly attempt the uncontested shot.
“The well went dry from the standpoint that you can only kill so many penalties and we had our back break right there when Wacker lost his stick,” Serratore said.
The Beavers were unable to muster any major scoring chance the rest of the way. After scoring two goals in the first six minutes of Friday’s game, Reiter ended the series without allowing a goal in 112 minutes and 34 seconds.
“That’s how a WCHA is supposed to be played – two teams battling it out – and obviously we would have liked to come out on top and get a couple of points,” BSU defenseman Sam Rendle said. “But we got better from last night to tonight. It’s still disappointing not leaving with anything but there’s still some positives. This is how it’s supposed to be: 1-0 games and we just have to find a way to get to the back of the net.”
BSU 0 0 1 – 1
UMD 0 0 0 – 0
First period – No scoring.
Second period – No scoring.
Third period- 1, UMD J. Connolly 3 (Seidel, Lamb), 11:21 (pp).
Shots on goal – BSU, 8-11-4-23. UMD, 6-13-9-28.
Goalies – BSU, Bakala (28-27). UMD, Reiter (23-23).
Power plays – BSU, 0-for-2. UMD, 1-for-5.
All photos by Eric Stromgren