The Bemidji State men’s hockey team was in position to challenge North Dakota for its elusive first win against the Fighting Sioux in the Division I era Saturday night at the Sanford Center.
Shea Walters tied the game early in the third period, but UND scored three straight goals in the final five minutes and defeated the Beavers 5-2 in front of 4,373 fans.
“We kind of let it slip away,” Walters said. “It was just a tough one. A really tough one.”
UND captain Mario Lamoureux scored the game-winning goal with 4:38 remaining to break the 2-2 tie, Brock Nelson added a power-play goal three minutes later and finished of the win with an empty-net goal with 29 seconds remaining.
Brance Orban scored Bemidji State’s first goal and goalie Dan Bakala had 31 saves. Corban Knight and Brendan O’Donnell also scored for UND, and goaie Aaron Dell had 23 saves.
BSU’s all-time record against UND in the Division I era dropped to 0-19-1 with the loss.
“It’s too bad we didn’t get the breaks at the end,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “That’s a very good hockey team and they earned it the hard way. That was a tough, hard-fought game and give credit to North Dakota.”
Bemidji State (4-8-1, 2-6-1 WCHA) and North Dakota (4-6-1, 2-5-0 WCHA) wrap up the weekend series Sunday at 5:07 p.m. at the Sanford Center.
Walters said BSU needs to put more shots on goal to have a chance at ending the streak against North Dakota.
“We started out putting the puck on the net and slowly as the game went on, they started coming back and had more shots,” Walters said. “I think that’s a big issue for us right now is getting pucks to the net.”
North Dakota came to Bemidji off to its slowest start since the 1975-76 season when it opened 1-5 in WCHA play. UND started off the game slow, too.
Orban opened scoring 2:11 into the first period when he jumped on a loose puck near the face-off dot following a face-off and picked the top corner of the net on a quick shot.
Knight tied the score at 1-1 four minutes later on a goal six seconds into a power play. He came out from the corner and put back his own rebound on the second attempt in front of Bakala.
North Dakota took a 2-1 lead four minutes into the second period on a rebound goal from O’Donnell at the top of the crease.
The Beavers had two power play opportunities in the second period but could not convert a goal.
Bemidji State tied the score for the last time 72 seconds into the third period on Walters’ sixth goal of the season. He snuck behind the defense on the far side of the net, took a long centering pass from Brady Wacker and buried the shot on a wide-open look.
Bakala was able to keep the Beavers in the game by making two big saves on Nelson during a UND power play five minutes into the third period.
It was the harmless looking play that hurt Bakala.
Lamoureux skated in and shot the puck through the legs of BSU defenseman Matt Carlson to beat Bakala’s glove to put UND up 3-2 with 4:38 to play.
“That was a tough one – that third goal,” Serratore said. “We had a couple of breakdowns there in the neutral zone.”
The backbreaking goal came on the power play. Jordan George was sent to the box on a holding call when UND defenseman Ben Blood went down behind the net.
“He extended his stick. when you put yourself in that spot, you’re forcing the referee to make a decision,” Serratore said.
Nelson sniped a shot from the right face-off circle with two seconds left on the power play and the Sioux went ahead 4-2 with 1:30 to play.
The Beavers have not won in four games and are 1-5-1 in the last seven games after Saturday’s loss.
“We played a lot better, a lot tougher but what counts is wins and losses and we’ve got to start putting together some wins,” Walters said. “We have to stay positive. We can’t dwell on anything negative. We just have to look forward and start getting some wins that’s for sure.”
BSU 1 0 1 – 2
UND 1 1 3 – 5
First period – 1, BSU Orban 3 (Cain), 2:11. 2, UND Knight 5 (Rowney), 6:49, (pp).
Second period – 3, UND O’Donnell (MacMillan, Rodwell), 4:30.
Third period – 4, BSU Walters 6 (Wacker, MacQueen), 1:12. 5, UND Lamoureux 1 (Blood, Gleason), 15:22. 6, UND Nelson 6 (Simpson), 18:30, (pp). 7, UND Nelson 7 (unassisted), 19:31.
Shots on goal – UND, 7-14-15-36. BSU, 11-8-6-25.
Goalies – UND, Dell (25-23). BSU, Bakala (36-31).
Power plays – UND, 2-for-4. BSU, 0-for-2.
All photos by Eric Stromgren.