Second-half surge carries Bemidji State into playoffs

By March 11, 2016Notebooks

Bemidji State is playing well entering the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.

The Beavers are 11-5-3 overall and 7-4-3 in the league since Christmas as they prepare to face Bowling Green in a best of 3 quarterfinal series this weekend.

Bemidji finished the regular season 16-14-6 overall and was sixth in the league with an 11-12-5 record. The Beavers, fourth in the league coaches poll, totaled 27 points to end up just three points behind Ferris State for the final home-ice berth in the first round of the playoffs.

They were 9-3-2 overall to start the second half and ended the regular season with a 1-0 win at WCHA champion and Minnesota State Saturday.

“We’ve been pretty consistent the second half,” Beaver coach Tom Serratore said.

The Beavers are 2-2-1 in their last five games.

“As of late, it’s been a little tougher for us to get on a roll,” Serratore said. “You want to try and get on these three- and four-game unbeaten streaks. If you have three or four of those during the year, it definitely helps your body of work throughout the year. Overall, I’m happy with our play.”

The Beavers’ strong second half came after they lost twice at home, 4-1 and 2-0, to the Falcons Dec. 11-12 to finish the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule.

Even though the Beavers were sixth in the league, they were swept just twice this season, the other sweep coming at home against Minnesota State Oct. 23-24. Bemidji lost five one-goal games during the first half and two two-goal games.

“Not much,” Serratore when asked what the difference was between the first and second half. “We’re better defensively the second half, but it was weird. The first half, we lost games when we outshot our opponents by 20, 25 shots, and we had a good territorial advantage.

“We were doing a lot of the right things, but for a variety of reasons, we didn’t win. The second half, we’ve found a way to win those games.”

Junior forward Brendan Harms leads the Beavers with 25 points on eight goals and 17 assists, while sophomore forward Gerry Fitzgerald has 13 goals and 10 assists, and senior forwards Markus Gerbrandt has seven goals and 16 assists. Senior forward Cory Ward has eight goals and 10 assists.

Bemidji is fifth in the league in scoring, 2.50 goals per game.

“They’re a very skilled team,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “You look at their forward group, it’s a group that plays the game fast and plays the game north.”

Bemidji is fourth in the league in goals allowed, 2.36 per game.

Sophomore goalie Michael Bitzer has a 2.07 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 31 games. But in the last 18 games, he’s 10-5-3 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. He made 38 saves in Saturday’s win at Minnesota State.

Bitzer’s six shutouts this reason rank fourth nationally. The shutout of Minnesota State set the single-season school record. He has 10 career shutouts, two shy of the career record.

“Michael Bitzer is a top goalie in the league,” Bergeron said.

On defense, the Beavers’ leaders include senior captain Graeme McCormack and junior Ruslan Pedan. Serratore said McCormack will play against BG after sitting out Saturday’s win over Minnesota State for precautionary reasons.

The Beavers have excellent special teams. Their power play is second in the league overall at 20 percent. The penalty-killing leads the WCHA and is fourth nationally at 89.1 percent.

Bemidji is second in the WCHA in special teams net with a +10, a statistic which includes all special teams goals for and against. BG is fourth at +3.

“We knew no matter who we were playing, there were going to be big-time challenges, no matter where we were slotted or seeded,” Bergeron said. “There’s no shortages of challenges from Bemidji.”

The Beavers have fared well on the road this season with a 9-5-2 record, including an 8-4-2 mark in the league. They’re scoring 2.50 goals per game in those games and allowing just 2.06.

“They’re a team that doesn’t care who they’re playing against or where they’re playing,” Bergeron said. “They’re going to play the same way. That’s a plus for a team, and they have that.”

Chris Bergeron,
6th season
Head coachMike Hastings,
4th season
22-13-6Overall record20-12-7
16-7-5, 3rdWCHA record16-5-7, tied 1st
12-5-5Home record13-7
10-8-1Away record6-4-7
0-0Neutrai site record1-1
2.85, 2nd/WCHAGoals per game2.62, 4th/WCHA
2.17, 3rdGoals against
per game
1.97, 1st
30 of 163, 18.4%, 3rdPower play29 of 179, 16.2%, 4th
134 of 157,
85.4%, 4th
Penalty-killing119 of 137, 86.9%, 1st
10.3, 8thPenalty minutes
per game
9.7, 10th
32-38-45-2—117Score by periods for35-31-35-1—102
28-29-31-1—89Score by
periods against
29.2Shots for per game34.6
27.9Shots against
per game
Mark Cooper, Sr.,
41 games,

Brandon Hawkins, Soph.,
40 games,

Matt Pohlkamp, Jr.,
41 games,
Top forwardsTeddy Blueger, Sr.,
39 games,

Bryce Gervais, Sr.,
39 games,

C.J. Franklin, Soph.,
39 games,
Sean Walker, Jr.,
41 games,
5-18—23, +14

Mark Friedman, Soph.,
41 games,
6-17—23, +8

Connor McDonald, Fr.,
41 games,
1-9—10, +13

Chris Pohlkamp, Fr.,
40 games,
1-5—6, +7
Top defensemenCasey Nelson, Jr.,
38 games,
5-16—21, +13

Jon Jutzi, 39 games,
5-9—14, +1

Sean Flanagan, Jr.,
33 games,
2-9—11, +1
Chris Nell, Soph.,
36 games, 18-10-6 record
1.91 goals-against,
.931 save percentage

Tommy Burke, Sr.,
7 games, 4-3 record,
2.88 goals-against,
.896 save percentage

Tomas Sholl, Jr.
0 games
GoaltendingCole Huggins, Jr.,
24 games, 12-10-2 record,
1.87 goals-against,
.914 save percentage

Jason Pawloski, Fr.,
17 games, 8-2-5 record,
1.85 goals-against,
.901 save percentage
WCHA Final Five,
Championship Game,
Saturday, 6:07 p.m.
vs. Michigan Tech
or Ferris State
NextWCHA Final Five,
Championship Game,
Saturday, 6:07 p.m.
vs. Michigan Tech
or Ferris State
Kevin Gordon

About Kevin Gordon

Kevin joined after wrapping up a 27-year run as the Falcon hockey beat writer for the Sentinel-Tribune. After providing another two years of the Falcon hockey coverage fans had grown to love over the past three decades, Kevin decided to hang up his notebook and is now enjoying the retired life. Please join us by sending Kevin a tweet and thank him for all the time he's dedicated to BGSU hockey: @KGordonBG.