HOUGHTON, Mich. — If not for a late turnover in the offensive zone and an ensuing breakaway goal by Jordan George, the Bemidji State Beavers and Michigan Tech Huskies might have skated to their second straight tie on the weekend. Instead, the Beavers squeezed out a 1-0 victory at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena on Saturday afternoon.
George blocked a shot from a Huskies’ defenseman just inside his own blue line, took off with the loose puck, skated it the length of the rink and beat Huskies goaltender Kevin Genoe with a backhand shot over Genoe’s left shoulder with just 1:33 remaining in the contest.
“I think you always lean on your best players most in these tight games,” said Beavers coach Tom Serratore. “We were just fortunate enough to get a loose puck right there and it was on the right guy’s stick.”
The Huskies’ all-freshman top line of wingers Milos Gordic and Ryan Furne along with Jacob Johnstone wreaked havoc all night around Beavers (11-14-3 overall, 7-12-3 WCHA) goaltender Dan Bakala, who won his 10th game of the season by making 23 stops.
Genoe played equally strong for the Huskies (3-23-4 overall, 1-19-2 WCHA), stopping 31 pucks over the course of the game. None may have been bigger than his first period stop on Beavers forward Drew Fisher. Fisher took a pass from forward Jamie MacQueen for a one-timer after Johnstone fell, turning the puck over to MacQueen.
“The first thing I said when I got in the locker room was how well Kevin played in net,” said Huskies coach Jamie Russell. “He’s done an outstanding job really for the last four games for us.”
The last two minutes of the first period saw both teams skating well, but neither could get pucks to the opposing goal.
Early in the second period, Gordic had a great chance to break the game open when he took a pass from freshman winger Tyler Gubb. Gordic fired a wrister that Bakala hung on to.
Four minutes later, Gordic had another great chance after Bakala made a stop on the initial shot from Johnstone, but again Bakala was equal to the task.
“Dan played very well,” said Serratore. “He saw the puck well; I thought he was really in command of his game.”
Bakala was tested again midway through the period when sophomore winger Aaron Pietila grabbed the puck behind his own net, skated it the length of the rink, and fired a shot on goal.
While short-handed late in the middle frame, Huskies junior winger Bryce Reddick intercepted a pass from Beavers defenseman Ryan Adams. Reddick turned and fired a shot that Bakala stopped. After the chance, the Beavers collected themselves and got the puck down the ice, where defenseman Sam Rendle took a pass from forward Aaron McLeod, but was stoned by Genoe.
MacQueen had a chance to put the Beavers ahead five minutes into the third period, but Genoe denied his shot. A minute later, Beavers captain Matt Read found defenseman Brad Hunt at the point, but his shot was handled by Genoe.
Midway through the third, Huskies sophomore center Evan Witt took a pass from freshman center Daniel Holmberg and beat Bakala with a shot over the right shoulder. Unfortunately for the 2,708 Huskies’ faithful in the stands, the shot hit the crossbar and careened away.
The Huskies had a great opportunity to take the lead on the power play with less than seven minutes to go. Gordic and Furne both had swings at the puck as it sat just to Bakala’s left, but neither could lift the puck over the sprawling goalie.
Russell pulled Genoe with 27 seconds remaining in the third, and the Huskies forced the Beavers to ice the puck with just 19 seconds left. Russell called his time out to try to rally his troops, but the Huskies couldn’t quite find the net as Furne fired over the net with three seconds to go.
Neither team could get anything going on the power play for the second straight night, as the Beavers finished zero-for-two and the Huskies went zero-for-three.
With the goal, George earned Winter Carnival Most Valuable Player honors for the weekend.