BEMIDJI, Minn. — Bemidji State survived a wild contest with Niagara Saturday, capturing a 3-2 win on a third-period power-play goal and retaining a share of first place in College Hockey America.
As in Friday night’s 7-4 BSU victory, the power play was key for the Beavers. BSU scored two third-period power-play goals, the first by Jeff McGill just 40 seconds into the frame and the second Marty Goulet’s game-winner at 17:36, to break open a 1-1 game and complete the series sweep — its first of the season against a CHA opponent, its first since a two-game sweep of Findlay, Jan. 21-22, 2000 and just its third since the league’s inception.
Freshman center Riley Riddell got BSU on the board first, netting his 13th goal of the season at 14:50 of the first period. It marked the third consecutive game the Beavers have scored first, their longest such streak of the season. BSU retained its 1-0 lead until 13:13 elapsed in the second period when Bernie Sigrist evened the score with his fifth goal of the year, even strength.
With two seconds to play in the second period, Niagara’s Hannu Karru was issued three penalties for 17 minutes and ejected — a two-minute minor for holding, a five-minute major for spearing and a game misconduct — and BSU would capitalize. McGill’s power-play goal 40 seconds into the third period gave BSU a 2-1 lead. Niagara then successfully killed off the five-minute major.
Matt Ryan evened the score at two goals apiece, scoring his fifth goal of the season for Niagara at 7:08 of the third period. The game remained tied, but a tripping penalty on Niagara’s Ryan Gale at 16:06 of the third put BSU on its sixth power-play opportunity of the night, and it took Goulet just 1:30 to capitalize and net the eventual game-winning goal.
BSU’s two power-play goals on the night give it 10 in its last three games.
“This is a big win,” Goulet said. “We capitalized on a huge power-play goal at the end.”
“We need to do our job at home,” Goulet said of BSU’s return trip to Niagara in just two weeks. “It will be easier for us to go to Niagara if we have a strong series against Air Force at home.”
“It’s going to be a tough series,” he added. “They will come out flying and will want revenge.”
“We’ll take it,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “That was exciting and interesting hockey; the game could have gone either way. The power-plays were the difference in the game.”
“First we need to worry about Air Force.,” Serratore said, when asked about BSU’s return trip to Niagara. “It will be an exciting series, but a tough one.”
BSU goaltender Grady Hunt saved 23 shots, including three in the game’s final five seconds as BSU held on for the win, picking up his 10th victory of the year and remaining undefeated against College Hockey America foes at 7-0-2. In his last 13 starts against the CHA, Hunt is 9-1-3.
“Their goalie played well, and the team played well after a long road trip,” Hunt said. “The power-play goal was huge; it is good to win on special teams. Being tied for first place is great; it has been awhile since BSU has been in first place, and it’s exciting.”
Rob Bonk started between the pipes for Niagara; he saved 34 shots in the losing effort, falling to 14-8-0 on the season. The Purple Eagles played the game’s final 20 seconds with an empty net.
Bemidji State improved to 11-12-3 overall and remains tied for first place in College Hockey America with 18 points (7-2-2); Wayne State defeated Findlay this evening, 4-3, to remain tied for first place, also with 18 points. Niagara fell to 15-11-0 overall and remains to third place in the CHA standings with 14 points (5-4-0).