MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period to defeat Bemidji State 4-3 on an unassisted goal from Ben Marshall with 53 seconds left.
With the win, the Gophers advance to the semifinals of the WCHA tournament in St. Paul, Minn., next weekend.
“We played our hearts out tonight and it’s a tough pill to swallow right now, obviously, because we had a lead,” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore.
“Not until now does it sink in that it’s our last WCHA game here [at Mariucci Arena],” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “It might as well be a class.”
On the game-winner, Marshall picked the puck up at center ice, split the defenders and gained a half stride, throwing a backhand on net that went in past BSU goalie Andrew Walsh.
“I picked the puck in the neutral zone,” Marshall explained. “Just move down the right side wall, it’s kinda like where I usually go where I rush the puck up and to be honest, I just beat the first defenseman’s stick and just put it on net and tried to go far pad and you get a rebound and fortunately, it went in.”
A.J. Michaelson had tied the game at three at 7:38 of the third, cleaning up a rebound on a shot by Erik Haula from the blue line. Michaelson, who had just come off the bench, headed straight to the net and blew around the Bemidji defense, picked up the rebound and backhanded a shot behind Walsh.
“I think it was Erik that shot it and A.J. came off a line change and made a nice play by collecting a rebound and getting it by the goaltender,” remarked Lucia.
Overall, it was much better game by the Beavers.
“I thought we had 20 guys that played well,” Serratore said. “I thought we pushed the pace. We had plenty of scoring chances.”
The second period was full of action. The first half of the stanza was all Minnesota, including a one-timer by Marshall hitting a pipe. The Beavers were held without a shot for the first eight minutes of the stanza.
Cory Ward put Bemidji up 2-0 at 9:27 on a tip off a shot by Sam Rendle, who kept the puck in the zone and fired a shot from the blue line that Ward tipped over Adam Wilcox.
Minnesota got on the scoreboard at 15:33 when Nick Bjugstad one-timed a pass from Kyle Rau in front of the crease.
Just 14 seconds later, Phil Brewer had a breakaway. Wilcox made the initial save, but left a big rebound six feet in front of the net that Jeff Jubinville chipped up and over Wilcox’s shoulder to make it a 3-1 Beavers’ advantage.
Minnesota responded on an innocent looking shot by Haula from just inside the blueline. Walsh made the initial save, but did not cover up the puck between his legs and Nate Condon tapped in the rebound.
“I thought the goal that made it 3-2 was obviously a huge goal,” Lucia said. “Walsh had played well all weekend long.”
Jordan George opened the scoring at 16:49 of the first on a power-play goal for the Beavers. George cleaned up a puck off a shot from Ben Kinne that trickled to the weak side for a back door tap-in.
The first period was very different from yesterday’s first three periods for the Beavers. They had more quality shots in the stanza than in regulation yesterday and were able to pressure the puck and keep Minnesota scoring chances to a minimum.
“Absolutely, I am proud my guys,” said Serratore. “I thought they responded and they played their hearts out.”
“[Bemidji State was] 3-3 in the playoffs coming into this weekend in the WCHA,” Lucia said. “We knew it was going to be a difficult process playing them four straight. They do not beat themselves.”