KEARNEY, Neb. — The Findlay hockey program officially came to a close this afternoon as top-seeded Bemidji State defeated the Oilers 6-2 in the semifinals of the College Hockey America tournament in Kearney, Neb.
Despite outshooting the Beavers 38-28, Findlay was unable to overcome strong goaltending by Bemidji State’s Grady Hunt and a hat trick by John Haider.
“I am extremely proud of this team,” Findlay head coach Pat Ford said following the Oilers’ final game. “With everything that’s happened, they never gave up. These guys continued to battle back all game.”
Findlay had two good chances to get on the board early during a power-play situation, but Hunt stood strong between the pipes for BSU, holding off four Oiler attacks. The Beavers struck first on their own a power play of their own at the 7:22 mark. Junior Myles Kuharski extended his scoring streak to seven games, when he caught a pass from Riley Riddell.
Bemidji State quickly extended its lead to four, scoring on half of its first eight shots. A pair of defensemen added scores as senior Bryce Methven scored on an unassisted shot at the 8:53 mark and Haider added a goal at 9:32 off another assist from Riddell.
The Oilers made a switch in goal, as sophomore Jon Horrell replaced freshman Will Hooper. A new face between the pipes didn’t deter Haider, who earned his second goal of the period on a power-play pass from Anders Olsson and Luke Erickson.
Findlay lit the lamp at 16:55, when Brandon Straub’s pass from Mark Bastl deflected off Hunt’s glove to give the Oilers a power play goal.
Hunt stopped a flurry of Findlay chances to start the second period, as the Oilers pounded away at the net during a power play opportunity to take a 2-1 advantage on shots. At 11:21, the Beavers earned a goal from sophomore Jean-Guy Gervais, who extended his scoring streak to six games when he took a pass from Myles Kuharski and Methven. Findlay quickly responded to keep the Beavers’ lead to three, as freshman Mike Batovanja scored from Kurtis Peterson and Brian Sherry at the 12:08 mark.
Haider scored his third goal of the game at 4:26 into the third period to give the Beavers a 6-2 lead. Haider’s hat trick came off Erickson’s second assist of the night.
“We were lucky to come out with a win,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said following the game, where the Beavers went six minutes without an attempt on goal in the first period. “They directed the play a lot and then we were just ‘puck lucky’. Findlay is the hottest team in the league right now and they’re playing with a tremendous amount of emotion.”
The top-seeded Beavers advance to the CHA championship game, for the second consecutive year, Sunday night against Niagara.