ST. CLOUD – The Bemidji State men’s hockey team defeated St. Cloud State 3-1 Saturday night at the National Hockey Center with the help of a strong penalty kill and a historic goal from senior defenseman Brad Hunt.
The Beavers shut down all five St. Cloud State power plays and Hunt’s goal at 11:55 of the first period turned out to be the game-winning goal. It was also his 100th career point with the Beavers.
“It feels great, but it feels even better that we got the win,” Hunt said. “If we didn’t win that game, the 100 point mark doesn’t really feel as special. It’s great to get the win and reach that milestone. It’s really cool.”
Jordan George and Radoslav Illo also scored for BSU, and goalie Dan Bakala finished with 33 saves. Nick Oliver scored for the Huskies and goalie Ryan Faragher had 11 saves.
Bemidji State improved to 6-8-2 (4-6-2 WCHA), earned three standings points in the weekend series with St. Cloud State (6-8-4, 4-5-3 WCHA) and are unbeaten in the last three games. BSU returns to Bemidji next weekend to face No. 10 Denver at the Sanford Center. Game times are 7:37 p.m. Friday and 7:07 p.m. Saturday.
“I think we have a lot of confidence right now,” Hunt said. “Getting our first win against North Dakota in 40 years and coming in here and tying last night with the effort we had coming down from two, two-goal deficits … winning 3-1 how we did with a lot of the penalty kills – there’s a lot of confidence and morale in the dressing room right now, and everyone’s really high.”
St. Cloud State’s Oliver opened scored 3:25 into the game with his second goal of the year but the lead didn’t last long.
George answered with his team-leading 10th goal of the year 47 seconds later when his shot was deflected at the front of the net, popped up into the air and bounced off Faragher’s back into the net.
Hunt’s game-winning goal was like many of his 21 previous goals through the years at BSU. He skated toward the middle of the ice at the blue line and powered a slap shot through traffic past Faragher for the 2-1 lead.
Hunt became the sixth defenseman in BSU hockey history to reach 100 career points and was the first defenseman to do it since Jude Boulianne, Jr., who played for BSU from 1991-95.
“Brad’s going to go down as one of the best defensemen in Beaver hockey history and he’s our best defenseman in the Division I era,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “It was very gratifying for him to get that point tonight and it was a big point. It was a vintage Brad Hunt shot from the point and it got through. I’m very happy for him.”
Bemidji State’s penalty kill was put to the test in the second period against St. Cloud State’s power play. BSU came into the game ranked No. 2 in WCHA play with a kill rate of 83 percent and SCSU’s rate of 13.5 percent ranked last.
BSU killed two full penalties in the second period along with two partial penalties that carried over from the first period and carried into the second period.
“It’s (the penalty kill) is all about hard work,” Hunt said. “I thought we worked really hard at it, we had great goaltending from Dan Bakala and we did the things that we needed to do.”
The biggest SCSU threat came when BSU defenseman Brady Wacker was lost for the game on a contact to the head misconduct penalty with 1:25 left in the second period. It created a five-minute major power play for the Huskies.
St. Cloud State’s advantage slipped away when Cam Reid was assessed a penalty for cross-checking Hunt at the edge of the BSU net 73 seconds into the third period. The penalty negated almost the entire second half of the SCSU power play.
“I thought the guys were in control on the penalty kill,” Serratore said. “It was very similar to the Sunday game against North Dakota, we did a good job (on the penalty kill), we had a good rhythm and we cleared pucks.”
The Beavers closed out the victory when Illo scored on a slap shot from the blue line halfway through a BSU power play with 3:11 left in the third period. It was his second goal of the weekend and his third of the season.
BSU 2 0 1 – 3
SCSU 1 0 0 – 1
First period – 1, SCSU Oliver 2 (Bertsch, Gravel), 3:25. 2, BSU George 10 (McLeod, Carlson), 4:12. 3, BSU Hunt 3 (Jubinville), 11:55.
Second period- No scoring.
Third period – 4, BSU Illo 3 (Orban 7), 16:49.
Shots on goal – BSU, 6-1-7-14. SCSU, 13-10-11-34.
Goalies – BSU, Bakala (34-33). SCSU, Faragher (14-11).
Power plays – BSU, 1-for-3. SCSU, 0-for-5.
All photos by Eric Stromgren.