HANOVER - N.H. — Twenty-two days between games meant nothing for Bemidji State and sophomore goaltender Matt Dalton.
The Beavers knocked off Massachusetts, 4-2, in the first game of the Dartmouth Ledyard Bank Invitational behind 18 saves from Dalton. With the win, Bemidji advances to tomorrow’s tournament championship against the winner of tonight’s Dartmouth-Army tilt.
Protecting a two-goal lead for most of the third period, Bemidji held the Minutemen to six shots in the final 20 minutes. Dalton brushed all six UMass attempts aside in extending the Beavers’ six-game win streak. Dalton has started each of those games, posting a .953 save percentage and a goals-against average just north of one in the six games.
“Our goalie played very well,” Bemidji coach Tom Serratore said. “There’s a certain way we need to play, and who the goalie is should have no bearing on that but there is no question that we’ve put together a pretty good run because of him.”
Leading 3-2 with 18 minutes, 28 seconds remaining in the final period, Cody Bostock leveled UMass winger James Marcou as he picked up a pass at the Bemidji blue line. Officials whistled him for interference, forcing Bemidji to kill a penalty to protect its one-goal lead.
The Beaver penalty killers maintained their shape and kept any shooting or passing lanes closed to the Minutemen. Bostock left the box, the score still at 3-2. One minute, 8 seconds later, he held the puck at the left point with Ben Kinne drifting toward the goalmouth. Bostock spotted him and fired the pass toward UMass goaltender Paul Dainton. Kinne jabbed his stick at the puck, redirecting it behind the sprawling Dainton.
“It was a tough goal,” UMass captain Cory Quirk said. “On our power play, we need to figure out how to execute. No matter what the situation is, we need to find out a way to execute. It was demoralizing going down, 4-2, but we stuck with it and kept going. There was plenty of time left.”
The Minutemen have demonstrated the ability to create offense quickly this season. However, at 4:20 of the second period, senior winger Alex Berry hit a Bemidji player from behind and spent the rest of the game in the locker room. Berry features prominently on UMass’ top line and its primary power play unit; his absence hamstrung the Minuteman offense.
“[The game misconduct] was a problem but [leading-scorer] James Marcou doesn’t play the penalty kill so he was able to pull double shifts,” Quirk said. “We got around, so it wasn’t an excuse. It did give us some problems, though.”
The Beavers’ offense varied its attack methods throughout the game, creating problems for the UMass defensemen. Once in their offensive zone, Bemidji used quick, efficient cycling plays to pull the Minutemen out of position.
At 14:43 of the first period, the game tied, 1-1, this technique gave Bemidji the lead for good. Tyler Scofield wheeled at the bottom of the faceoff circle to Dainton’s left before firing it into the low slot. Dainton tried to clear the puck, jabbing his stick at the puck as it sailed in front of him. He managed to deflect it into the air, but it fell on the stick of center Matt Read, who knocked it past the UMass net minder.
The Beavers got only 18 shots through to Dainton, but created enough quality chances to build and maintain a lead. At times, UMass miscues led directly to those opportunities.
Leading 1-0 after Quirk deflected his own rebound past Fallon, UMass went down a man thanks to a Danny Hobbs tripping minor.
On the Bemidji power play, UMass penalty killers Berry and Quirk forechecked hard into the Bemidji zone. The rush drained a few seconds from Hobbs’ two-minute minor. Once the Beavers gained possession of the puck, however, a quick transition led to the game-tying goal. Senior winger Brandon Marino darted through the neutral zone and quickly gained the UMass blue line. He beat defenseman Topher Bevis and fired a wrister on Dainton that slipped through his five-hole.
“I don’t think the second, third or fourth goals were goals [Dainton] had anything to do with,” UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon said. “The first goal, when the guy was on a semi-breakaway, was one I think he’d like to have back.”
After tomorrow’s conclusion to the tournament, the Minutemen head back to Amherst to host No. 10 Cornell a week from tonight at the Mullins Center. Meanwhile, the Beavers host No. 18 North Dakota Friday in the front end of a home-and-home series.