BEMIDJI, Minn. — Bemidji State exploded for a season-high five goals in the second period to blow open a 2-2 game and cruise to a 7-4 win over the Niagara Purple Eagles Friday at the John Glas Fieldhouse. BSU’s five-goal second surpassed its previous single-period high of four goals, set on three occasions this year.
BSU got the scoring festival off early, as Jeff McGill netted his eighth goal of the season just eight seconds into the game. It is the fastest goal to start a game for BSU since it joined the Division I ranks for the 1998-99 season.
Niagara evened the score at 1-1 with Matt Ryan’s fourth goal of the season at 7:56 of the first period, but McGill would put BSU back on top, 2-1, with his second goal of the game at 10:04. It is McGill’s second two-goal game of the season, and third of his career.
The lead would be short-lived, as John Heffernan’s 15th goal of the year again pulled Niagara even, 2-2, at 11:03 of the first. Neither team would score again in the period, and the teams took the 2-2 tie into the first intermission.
Bemidji State then came out on fire and blew the game open with five goals in the second. Andrew Murray netted his 13th goal of the season on a power-play opportunity just 1:14 into the frame to put BSU ahead 3-2; Frank Udovich scored his third goal of the year at 3:42; Clay Simmons netted his seventh goal of the season and fifth power-play tally at 7:04, and Murray lit the lamps for his second goal of the period at 8:32 to put BSU ahead 6-2. Bernie Sigrist scored unassisted for Niagara at 9:03 of the second to pull the Purple Eagles within 6-3, but John Haider’s second goal of the season at 15:24 of the period capped the five-goal frame for the Beavers and sent them into the second intermission with a 7-3 advantage.
Niagara tallied the only goal of the third period, as Sigrist picked up his second goal of the game and fourth of the year at 2:21.
Grady Hunt started in net for BSU and continued his domination of CHA opposition. The BSU sophomore saved 30 shots in 59:32 en route to his ninth win of the season. He remains unbeaten against CHA foes this season at 6-0-2, and dating back to last year Hunt is 8-1-2 in his last 11 starts against conference foes. Freshman Toby Palmiscno made his first appearance of the season, playing the game’s final 28 seconds in relief.
BSU’s special teams dominated, converting on three of four power-play opportunities including each of its first three extra-man chances. On the flip side, the Beaver penalty killers managed to kill three of four Niagara power-play chances. On the heels of its CHA record-tying five power-play goals at Ferris State on Jan. 26, BSU has now scored eight power-play goals in its last two games.
“The team responded well tonight and played with an abundance of energy,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “They went to the net and did well. My hat’s off to the guys — they played well. Tomorrow will be different, but if we come out and repeat what we did tonight we should do well.”
Freshman center Andrew Murray earned first-star honors for BSU, scoring two goals and two assists for a career-high four points. Murray netted two power-play goals in the second period at 1:14 and 8:32, marking the second consecutive game he has scored two power-play goals in a single period. He earned the first assist on both of McGill’s goals to round out his career night. Murray has scored seven points in BSU’s last two games (four goals, three assists).
“It was a team effort tonight and everybody played their role,” Murray said. “Everyone came to play. We knew coming into the game that it was for first place in the conference. Our power-play was clicking and we had great goaltending.”
Bemidji State improved to 10-12-3 overall and remains tied for first place in College Hockey America with 16 points (6-2-2); Wayne State defeated Findlay to remain in first place, also with 16 points. Niagara fell to 15-10-0 overall and drops to third place in the CHA standings with 14 points (5-3-0).
The teams wrap up their two-game series tomorrow evening at John Glas Fieldhouse in Bemidji; opening faceoff for the contest is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Prior to tomorrow’s game, BSU will host a special ceremony recognizing area law enforcement and fire department members, and all members of such organizations will be admitted to the game for half price.