GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The Bemidji State Beavers fought back from a three-goal third-period deficit and gave No. 1 North Dakota all it could handle before falling 4-3 to the Sioux at Engelstad Arena.
With the Sioux leading 4-1 and on the power play early in the third, the Beavers became the first team to score shorthanded against UND this season. Sophomore wing Brandon Cook scored the unassisted goal at 1:19 just when it looked as if UND was going to dominate the game.
“One of their defensemen and their goaltender got tangled up and I was able to gain possession of the puck behind the net,” Cook said. “I wrapped it around before the goaltender got back in the net. I knew I had a little bit of time. I wanted to make sure I handled it well and stuff it in good.”
Two minutes later, with Sioux captain Ryan Hale in the penalty box for hooking, Bemidji center Andrew Murray won the faceoff cleanly in the Sioux zone and wing Marty Goulet cranked a screaming slapshot that clanked in under the crossbar in the far corner. Sioux goalie Josh Siembida never had a chance.
“That was weird,” Goulet said. “For some reason, I thought I was going to get that chance. It came to me and I was ready. I don’t normally choke up on my stick like that. I was just ready to laser it.”
In a two-minute span, UND’s seemingly insurmountable three-goal lead was reduced to one goal with more than 16 minutes to play.
“We should have cleared the puck on the penalty kill,” said Sioux coach Dean Blais. “We lost the faceoff and all of a sudden we’re hanging on for our lives.”
With about 5:30 left, the Beavers appeared to score the game-tying goal when Siembida misplayed a dump-in from near center ice by Beaver defenseman Bryce Methven. However, the play was blown offsides because a Bemidji player had not yet cleared the zone.
Although the Beavers pulled their goalie for an extra attacker with 1:14 left, they were unable to score and the Sioux held on for an unexpectedly close victory.
“We definitely have no reason to hang our heads,” Goulet said, “but we are disappointed that we lost. Our first period is what killed us. ”
Sioux senior forward Kevin Spiewak opened the scoring at 5:35 of the first period. With UND on the power play, he intercepted a clearing attempt in the slot and rifled it past Bemidji junior goalie Grady Hunt. UND forward Brandon Bochenski scored again at 14:15, one-timing David Lundbohm’s centering pass past Hunt during a 3-on-1 rush.
In the second period, Sioux sophomore forward Quinn Fylling put his team up 3-0 when he roofed a wrist shot at 12:13 for UND’s second power play goal of the night. Goulet got Bemidji on the scoreboard with an unassisted goal at 17:37, firing a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Siembida short side.
“I was just using the D-man as a screen,” Goulet said. “He went down and I wanted to make sure I got it by him. Put it on net and good things happen.”
The Sioux began the third period with a 5-on-3 power play, which they capitalized on less than a minute in when Bochenski pounded his second goal of the game past Hunt.
“The second one went right into him. I don’t know what was behind it, but it went through him. That’s just kind of how the whole weekend was,” Bochenski said.
“We scored on the 5-on-3 and I’m thinking it was pretty much game over,” Blais said.
The Beavers, however, had other ideas.
“They fought hard,” Blais said. “We knew they were going to fight all the way to the end. This was their chance to knock off the number-one team in the country and they almost did.”
Although Bemidji came out on the losing end, coach Tom Serratore was pleased with his team’s effort and believes the experience will help the Beavers better compete for the CHA title.
“The thing we have to do that’s kind of odd is play this kind of desperate hockey within our own league, and at times we don’t,” he said “We’ve got to get consistency within our own league so we can win the league. Playing a little desperate and a little scared is healthy. That’s part of life. When you do that, you seem to execute a little more and you’re a little more of what you have to do to try to win a game.”
With North Dakota playing WCHA-leading Colorado College at home next weekend without the services of center Zach Parise and defensemen Matt Jones and Matt Greene, Blais said the game demonstrated the need for the Sioux to get back to basics.
“I was more impressed with Bemidji than I was with our own team,” he said. “That’s how important it is to get back to practice this week and get back to the fundamentals. We have a lot of work to do, obviously. The absence of Zach Parise is one thing, but you can see that the absence of Jones and Greene are even more of an impact.”
The win gave the Sioux the tournament championship in the first-ever Subway Holiday Classic and improved their overall record to 18-1-1 (8-1-1 WCHA). Bemidji is now 5-6-6 overall (3-1-2 CHA). UND is riding a 14-game unbeaten streak at home dating back to last season.
Bochenski’s two goals against Bemidji, including the game-winner, give him a nation-leading 25 goals in 20 games. He was named the tournament’s most valuable player, in addition to making the all-tournament team after his six-goal weekend.