DETROIT — One would be hard-pressed to find a matchup between two lower-scoring teams in America than Friday night’s contest between Bemidji State and Wayne State. And when the CHA’s beacons of offensive futility met at the Michigan State Fairgrounds, the result was somewhat predictable.
Bemidji State finally capitalized at 2:31 of the third period as Matt Pope picked up a loose puck on a turnover in the WSU zone and wristed it from the slot past Warriors goalie Brett Bothwell. The Beavers made the slim margin hold for a 1-0 win after a final period filled with near-misses and fluky bounces on both sides.
“Their defense seemed to be standing still, and I cut to the middle behind them,” said Pope about his third goal of the season, “I don’t think the goalie was ready for the shot, because it wasn’t that hard. But I had to get him back for stopping me in the first.”
Pope was referring to his clear-cut breakaway in the first, where his shot became one of Bothwell’s 26 saves as the puck sat under the WSU goalie’s pads on the goal line before the referee blew the play dead.
The Warriors’ best opportunity of the game came late in the final period, as BSU goalie Matt Climie made a rare miscue by getting tangled with a defenseman while ranging out towards the blue line to play a loose puck and prevent a Jason Baclig breakaway. Mark Nebus fired the puck towards the net from just outside the blue line, and watched it slide past the tangled pair and slowly roll to the goal before clanking off the post.
Otherwise, Climie was flawless for Bemidji State (4-4-3, 2-2-3 CHA) in stopping 21 shots to earn his second shutout of the season.
“They didn’t manage many shots, and Matt saw a lot of them,” said BSU head coach Tom Serratore, “It was a turf war between the tops of the circles and the tops of the circles; there really wasn’t that much hockey played below that.”
WSU head coach Bill Wilkinson was left wondering about the production of his Warriors, who have scored just 28 goals in 14 games and were shut out for a WSU-record fifth time this season. Wayne State has already been blanked twice in consecutive games after entering this season never being shut out in back-to-back contests.
“Like Cornell, when we hit two posts and a crossbar down there on Sunday,” Wilkinson said, “tonight, we had some good chances. One of those, we have to kick in, somehow.”
Wayne State (3-11-0, 1-2-0 CHA) continued its enigmatic play on the power play against the Beavers. After failing to score in seven chances, the Warriors are now 0-of-52 with the man advantage versus BSU since Nov. 23, 2004.
A more important streak is Bemidji’s recent dominance of the Warriors — 11-1-1 in the last 13 and unbeaten in the last seven meetings (6-0-1) in the series.
Serratore was satisfied with the win even though, at times, it wasn’t pretty.
“It was a very tight game and obviously we would like to find some offense, but as long as we’re winning games, I’m not going to worry about that,” said Serratore, who added he wouldn’t change anything in Saturday’s series finale.
BSU has also struggled offensively this year, tallying 30 goals in 11 games overall and just 15 in seven conference contests.
After making solid stops on a pair of breakaways and many solid chances from BSU’s frontline, Bothwell — a freshman — might have moved ahead of senior goalie Will Hooper after splitting weekends all season.
“He hasn’t totally got it, both guys are still battling away,” said Wilkinson, “but as things look now, I probably would come back with him (tomorrow).”
The teams meet again Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.