It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but Saturday night it was a tale of two teams going in different directions at the State Fair Coliseum in Detroit, MI.
The CHA defending champion Bemidji State Beavers rolled to a 3-1 win over the Wayne State Warriors in the series finale and at 7-1-0 (3-1-0 CHA), are off to their best start as a Division-I program.
“We’re playing pretty well right now and we’re getting really good goaltending,” said Beavers Head Coach Tom Serratore after the game. “We’re just finding ways to win and that’s a good sign and hopefully we can keep it up.”
For Wayne State, these are the worst of times. Saturday’s loss dropped the once mighty squad to 0-7-1 (0-3-1), the worst start in the seven-year history of the team.
“It seems like the hockey gods might be against us right now,” said Head Coach Bill Wilkinson in a quiet Warriors locker room. “We’ve got a mature team that can handle some adversity and I keep telling them we’re a good team and things will change.”
It looked like things might be changing for the better early as the Warriors played the Beavers tight in the first twenty minutes and out-shot the visitors, 7-6.
The Beavers got the momentum back as, for the second straight night, Bemidji State came out on fire in the second period and took control of the game.
The Beavers’ constant pressure paid off at 8:18 as Rob Sirianni picked up a loose puck in a scrum in front of Warrior goalie Matt Kelly and popped the rubber over the netminder’s glove hand for his third goal of the year.
Then the Beavers took advantage of a Wayne State penalty at 13:54, when Matt Pope tipped in an Andrew Martens shot from the blueline to make it 2-0. The eventual game winner went upstairs on Kelly again and rattled off the left post before hitting the back of the net.
“The play started with Luke Erickson working really well on the wall,” said a smiling Pope after his team’s seventh win in eight games. “He gave a nice pass to Andrew who just took a shot on net. I just got my stick on it and didn’t really see where it was going. I heard a ding off the bar, turned around and it was in the net.”
Wayne State finally got on the scoresheet at 18:02 after a great individual effort by Jason Baclig. Baclig grabbed the puck a tore through the Beavers defense before letting a low wrister go from the top of the right face-off circle. His second goal of the year, and first since the season opener against Michigan State, beat Beavers goaltender Layne Sedevie five-hole to make it a one-goal game.
The two squads played a spirited, hard-hitting third period, as the Warriors tried furiously to knot up the score.
Perhaps their best chance to tie the game came shorthanded at 11:50 when Nate Higgins grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone and raced in alone after a Bemidji defender fell at the red line. Higgins deked left and tried to go to the far side with the puck on Sedevie, but at the last moment Sedevie kicked out a toe and steered the shot harmlessly into the corner.
The Warriors mounted a furious effort again with Kelly pulled and less than a minute to play in the contest. This time the pressure backfired, as a shot defected in front of the Bemidji goal all the way past the blueline where Ryan Miller picked it up and buried in the empty net to seal a two-game sweep for the Beavers.
The win gives Bemidji State a 9-1-0 record over WSU in their last ten meetings.
Bemidji State now hits the final leg of its six-game road trip next weekend with a pair of games in Big Rapids, Mich., against the Ferris State Bulldogs.
“Eight of our first ten games are on the road,” said Serratore. “We are looking forward to getting that series done and getting back home for a little bit. The guys have really responded well though and I’m really proud of them.”
Wayne State gets an off week before traveling to Schenectady, N.Y., for a two-game set with Union on Nov. 25 and 26.