GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Sixth ranked Bemidji State upset No. 1 Miami, 3-2, in the first game of the Subway Holiday Classic at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“It was a monumental win, there’s no question about it,” said BSU coach Tom Serratore. “I thought it was a great game both ways. It was playoff hockey.”
The BSU victory avenged last season’s Frozen Four semifinals loss to the RedHawks and ended Miami’s eight game unbeaten streak. The streaking Beavers improve to 11-1-1 (6-0-0 in College Hockey America) while the RedHawks fall to 9-2-4 (6-1-3 in the CCHA).
Miami entered the third period trailing 2-0, but two goals by junior center Carter Camper erased the BSU lead. Just when it appeared the RedHawks had all the momentum, Beavers senior center Chris McKelvie knocked in the rebound off Matt Read’s backhander to give BSU the game winner at 16:41.
“Over my career the last couple of years, we’ve had some big wins,” McKelvie said. “This is just another win in the regular season, but it’s always nice to beat the top team in the country.”
Miami coach Enrico Blasi said the difference in the game was BSU capitalizing on its chances.
“They did a great job of taking care of the front of their net, making sure we didn’t have second chances,” he said. “It came down to executing one more play than we did. I give them credit; they did a great job and they deserved to win.”
The first period proved to be the defensive battle expected with the two teams combining for nine shots on goal. Although BSU accounted for just two shots, one of them gave the Beavers a 1-0 lead at 8:37.
The play was set up when BSU junior forward Emil Billberg beat the Miami defense to the puck and held it in the zone. From along the left boards, center Aaron McLeod threw the puck on goal. Sophomore forward Darcy Findlay got his stick on it puck and deflected it up and over the shoulder of goalie Cody Reichard, giving BSU the early lead.
The second period saw more of the same with Miami generating quality scoring chances, shots on goal and time of possession in the BSU zone. But it was the Beavers who got on the scoreboard with a tally by senior forward Tyler Lehrke at the 6:02 mark to take a 2-0 lead.
McKelvie fired a shot from the left circle, forcing Reichard to make a pad save. The rebound went to Lehrke who was unmarked in the slot and fired the puck into a wide open net.
Down by two, the RedHawks began to apply more pressure. Toward the end of the period the Beavers were hanging on for dear life as Miami pressed. In the last 1:25, Bakala came up with big saves on Miamis Justin Vaive, Trent Vongelhuber and Reilly Smith two preserve the Beavers two-goal lead.
“We were down by two goals, so obviously we were throwing everything at them,” Blasi said. “Their goalie played well.”
“I thought the ice was very tilted probably about the last five or six minutes of the second period,” Serratore said. “Bakala was good and he did what good goaltenders do. He saved our bacon a few times.”
Carter got the RedHawks on the board with a power play goal at 5:24 of the third period when he fired the puck in far side from the right circle off a feed from Curtiss McKenzie. McKenzie and Camper teamed up for Miami’s second tally. A sharp-angled shot from Bakala’s right appeared to deflect in off his stick to knot the score 2-2 at 9:21.
Everything seemed to be going Miami’s way until Read got behind the RedHawks’ defense and put a backhand shot on goal from the left circle. Crashing the net, McKelvie was there to put in the rebound with 3:19 left in the game.
“Big-time players make big-time plays, and Matt Read’s our best player,” Serratore said. “It was nice to have the puck in his hands in that particular situation.”
Miami pulled Reichard for about the final minute and a half, but the Bakala and the Beavers held their ground and earned a hard-fought 3-2 win.
“It was a 2-2 game with four minutes left,” Blasi said. “They made a play and we didn’t. It could have easily been the other way. We expected this to be a tight game, and it was down the stretch.”
“It’s a small margin of error in college hockey, and we probably got the last bounce,” Serratore said.
BSU will play Ohio State at 4:07 p.m. Saturday at Engelstad in the tournament’s third game. Miami will play North Dakota at 7:37 p.m. in the final game.