ORONO, Maine — Entering Saturday’s duel with Maine, Bemidji State knew it had to make considerable improvements on special teams. After surrendering six power-play goals Friday, the adjustment was crucial if they wished to have any success against the Black Bears in the series finale.
Fortunately for the Beavers the changes came. After going 1-for-8 against Maine the previous night, Bemidji State surprised a sold-out crowd of 5,450 at Alfond Arena with three power-play goals.
Sadly for Bemidji State, the Black Bears fired back with three of their own.
Sparked by two-goal nights from freshman Teddy Purcell and fourth-line center Wes Clark, No. 7 Maine (3-0-0) avoided a scare from the Beavers (0-2-0), winning 6-3 to sweep the two-game homestead.
One night after the Black Bears’ special teams stole the limelight, it was Bemidji State’s power play that allowed the unranked squad to hang tight with Maine till halfway through the third period. Combined with Friday’s totals, Maine registered an impressive nine goals on the power play.
“We were fortunate to be able to convert on the power play three times tonight, otherwise it would’ve been a real nailbiter at the end,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead.
After the match, the Beavers, while proud of their improved power play, knew exactly where they went wrong.
“It was kind of the tale of both nights, we just took bad penalties at bad times,” said Luke Erickson, who beat netminder Ben Bishop for two goals. “With a team like this, you can’t do that.”
Bemidji head coach Tom Serratore expressed the same sentiment.
“If you make those mistakes against a team like these guys and it’s in the back of the net,” said. “They don’t beat themselves. There’s something to be said about that. I just love the way they play.”
The biggest of the Beavers’ sins came at 10:20 and 10:59 of the second period when Garrett Roth and Nathan Schwartzbauer joined each other in the box to give the Black Bears a 5-on-3 advantage. Only seven seconds after Schwartzbauer headed to the sin bin, Maine punished Bemidji State with a spectacular power-play goal from Purcell at 11:06.
The beauty came in the delivery, not the finish. With Purcell waiting on the stick side of netminder Matt Climie, junior Billy Ryan fired a laser to from the far corner with a man on him.
“It was perfect,” said Purcell of the goal. “That could’ve been anyone putting it. Billy and I talked about it right before the faceoff. He said, ‘Just go there, I’m going to put it right on your stick. I’m not even going to look.’ There was one little seam and he put it through a defenseman’s legs and I couldn’t believe it. He put it right on my stick. Anyone could’ve scored that one.”
The game-winner saw Brent Shepheard snag his third assist of the year.
“I thought they did a much better job on their penalty kill too,” said Whitehead. “To actually get three goals on our power play after the way they were playing on their penalty kill was very good.”
Still, the Black Bears were not in the clear until another freshman found the scoreboard. At 7:58 of the first period, Zach Sill eased the Maine faithful by scoring his first collegiate tally on a rebound out front. Sill capped off the play that began with a Rob Bellamy and Mike Hamilton led 3-on-1 rush. Coming nearly eight minutes into the third period; the goal quieted a feverish Bemidji State rally.
“They have the one-goal lead, our bench is jacked up, we’re excited and we’re waiting for it,” said Serratore. “Then that happens and it definitely deflated us.”
Erickson’s goal, which pinged off the middle of Bishop’s blocker post and into the net at 13:10 of second period, swung momentum back to the Beavers for the end of the second and the start of the third. With the tally, Bemidji became one of the rare teams to score three power play goals against Maine.
“That was the first time in a long time,” said Whitehead about surrendering three power play goals in the contest. “But we’ve lost some key penalty killers. When you lose Travis Wight, Steve Mullin and all four forwards that killed for us, it’s going to be a process on the penalty kill. It’s going to take time to get back to the level we were at last year.”
Purcell, who capped off the night with the sixth and final goal at 16:45, believes the Black Bears’ usually sterling penalty kill will be back to normal soon.
“We’re not too worried,” said Purcell. “We have to get better with face-offs. You know another week of working out we should be okay. It’s only our second week. We will get better as the season goes a long.”
Purcell’s second goal, another power play score, came after what Serratore categorized as another bad penalty.
“I was coming through the neutral zone with a head of steam and [Michel Leveille] made a great play and I kind of caught the defenseman flat-footed,” said Purcell. “I went in and he was giving me glove. I was working on it all week with Bishop and that guy is a lot smaller, so I took advantage of it.”
Clark opened the scoring at the start of the game by rifling an in-close rebound past Climie. The goal at 4:33 of the first period was one of three assisted by Bret Tyler. The offensive-minded defenseman finished the weekend with six assists.
Bemidji State proceeded to even up the game at 9:49 courtesy of a Ryan Miller tally. The goal, Miller’s first of the year, came off a perfect one-timer. For the next 15 minutes, the Beavers continued to apply commendable pressure on Bishop and 14 seconds into the second they snatched their first lead of the series. On the play, Erickson shoved in a garbage puck.
“We were definitely opportunistic,” said Serratore. “Again a couple of our money guys scored goals and they should: Miller and Erickson. They are our money guys. You want those guys to take charge and they did.”
Yet, Maine had an answer for anything Bemidji threw at them. At 2:26 of the second period, defenseman Matt Duffy collected his second goal of the year off passes from Tyler and Keenan Hopson.
“Bret Tyler is just a good passer and he sent it over nice and easy, then I let it fly from the point,” said Duffy.
Two minutes later, Clark registered his second backhanded goal of the night after sending a low shot over Climie.
“I just went hard to the net and buried it after the face-off,” said Clark. It was the second even-strength tally for the fourth line that impressed all night.
“They played great and that’s why we started them to tonight, they deserved it,” said Whitehead. “I was very pleased to see them all contribute.”
Maine finished the decision 3-for-11 on the power play, while Bemidji State was 3-for-7.
“We just had a lot more jump tonight,” said Serratore. “Last night was last night. But I am not disappointed at all. Do I like to lose a game? Of course I don’t like to lose a game. Conversely, this is an extremely difficult environment and I thought we responded well.”
In net for Maine, Bishop recorded his third victory with 20 saves. On the other end, Climie fell after garnering 31 saves.
Maine returns to action next weekend in arguably the series of the week against North Dakota on the road. The Beavers will play Regina University in an exhibition Saturday.
“We’re looking forward to next weekend at North Dakota; it’s going to be big,” said Clark.