Dan Bakala’s frustration against North Dakota came to an end Sunday afternoon at the Sanford Center.
The senior goalie stopped all 26 shots he faced in Bemidji State’s historic 1-0 victory in front of 3,746 fans to split the weekend series against the Fighting Sioux. It was Bemidji State’s first win against UND since 1970 and the first win in 21 games against UND in the program’s Division I era.
“These guys have had our numbers for so many years – it was just nice to kind of stick it to them. We held in there, held our own and they didn’t outwork us,” Bakala said before poking a little fun at himself. “I was just trying not to let in five (goals) like every other time I played against them.”
Bakala played in all four losses to North Dakota last year and in Saturday night’s 5-2 loss in the series opener. UND scored five goals in each of those victories, but Sunday belonged to Bakala and the Bemidji State special teams.
Jordan George beat North Dakota goalie Aaron Dell for his team-leading seventh goal of the season during a five-on-three power play at 9:08 of the second period for the game’s only goal. The Beavers killed all six North Dakota power plays, including three in the third period that included a five-minute major to defenseman Matt Carlson.
“There’s no question the guys needed a win and I think for the morale the guys needed it,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. “The fans needed it as well. It was everybody. It’s not necessarily who we are playing, it’s just about playing the game that we did. We were entertaining, it was a good 60-minute effort and that’s the biggest thing I’m most proud of.”
The Beavers ended a four-game winless streak with the victory, improved to 5-8-1 (3-6-1 WCHA) and will not play next weekend. Bemidji State’s next games are Dec. 2-3 on the road at St. Cloud State.
North Dakota dropped to 4-7-1 (2-6-0 WCHA) and are now 19-1-1 in the all-time series against BSU. North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol said he congratulated Bakala for his play following the game and wanted more effort from the UND players in front of the net.
“Dan played well and he did a great job for his team,” Hakstol said. “I’m not convinced we did enough to antagonize him, get traffic and get chaos in and around him. Those are the areas you really want to go to and we didn’t get there enough tonight.”
Sunday’s game picked up where Saturday’s series opener left off with physical and defensive play. The Beavers struggled early and did not have a shot on goal through the first six minutes of the game.
Bemidji State’s break came midway through the second period when North Dakota’s Mark MacMillan was called for holding and Andrew MacWilliam was called for interference on the same shift. The penalties created a five-on-three power play opportunity for BSU.
The winning goal came started when Dell made a leg save on a shot from defenseman Brad Hunt. The puck popped out to the right circle and George put the rebound under the crossbar for the goal 72 seconds into the power play.
“It was huge,” George said. “We had to get one there especially five-on-three. It was a big opportunity in the game and fortunately we beared down there and got one.”
It was Bemidji State’s first goal on the power play in seven games. The last was a game-winning goal from Ben Kinne during the second period of a 3-1 win over Michigan Tech on Oct. 22.
North Dakota had five power-play opportunities the rest of the way to score the tying goal. The BSU players dropped to the ice to block shots, clogged passing lanes and Bakala came up with the saves.
Bakala faced the most pressure in the middle of the third period when Carlson was lost for the rest of the game. He checked UND captain Mario Lamoureux from behind and was assessed a game misconduct.
“It’s hard because you are fatigued and he (Carlson) brings size and length,” Serratore said. “If you’re going to lose a D-man, you want to lose him at the end of the game because you’re playing on emotion. You don’t want to take a penalty that late in the game but we could rotate five defenseman in that short of a time span.”
The penalty came with 12:39 to play and the Beavers killed the penalty five minutes later to a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Our (penalty kill) was great all game and I wasn’t worried at all,” Bakala said. “I think it helped out we were on the (penalty kill) because that was the best time we were on the ice.”
UND 0 0 0 – 0
BSU 0 1 0 – 1
First period- No scoring.
Second period – 1, BSU George 7 (Hunt), 9:08, (pp).
Third period – No scoring.
Shots on goal- UND, 5-10-11-26. BSU, 6-11-7-24.
Goalies – UND, Dell (24-23). BSU, Bakala (26-26).
Power Plays – UND, 0-for-6. BSU, 1-for-3.
All photos by Eric Stromgren.