Western Collegiate Hockey Association logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bemidji, Minnesota – This weekend, is the last time the Gophers will ever play the Bemidji State Beavers as members of the WCHA, ever.
Two summers ago, the college hockey landscape changed forever. That discussion, however, is for another day.
Next season, the Gophers will come back to play the Beavers at the Sanford Center as members of Big Ten Hockey Conference. The Beavers will remain in the new version of the WCHA.
Last weekend, the Beavers defensive style of play kept UND bottled up and gave them fits.
Fast forward to this weekend, the Beavers again were giving another team fits, this time that same tenacious fore-check was on display at the Sanford Center in Bemidji and the Beavers were getting in the Gophers shooting lanes and taking away their time and space. It was a beaut to watch as the Beavers were giving the highly touted Gophers forwards little room to roam.
Through one period of hockey, the Gophers and Beavers exchanged goals and played an evenly matched game of hockey. The Beavers outshot the Gophers 13-10 in the first period
The second period would prove to be rough sledding in the early going for the Beavers, as they had to a kill a five-on-three power play. Unfortunately, the Beavers luck would run out at the 02:21 mark of the second period as Nick Bjudstad would score his first of two goals on the power play.
The Beavers would continue to work hard and beat the Gophers to the puck and that hard work would finally pay off as the Beavers would eventually tie the score at the 18:17 mark of the second period with a goal from Beaver freshman Cory Ward. Ward’s goal was an example of what happens when you go hard to the net.
The Gophers would out shoot the Beavers in the second period 9-8.
The opportunistic Cory Ward, would score his second of the game at the 2:30 mark of the second period, to give the Beavers a momentary 3-2 lead.
Freshman Cory Ward (Las Vegas, Nevada) has been hot as of late and has points in four of his last five games (3g-3a—6pts).
“The last couple of weeks we’ve played like that, we’ve played really well,” Ward said. “I feel like everything is coming together. Playing against teams like that we’ve stepped our game up and that’s really important going into the playoffs in our position.”
The Beavers would miss a golden opportunity go up 4-2, on a breakaway by senior forward Jordan George. That was a key play that would come back to haunt the Beavers.
The Gophers would tie the game four minutes later with a goal by Justin Holl.
The game wouldn’t stay tied for long as the Golden Gophers would go on the power play at the 14:54 mark of the third period with untimely and bad penalty from sophomore defenseman Sam Rendle.
The Gophers would make the Beavers pay 0:31 seconds later when Nick Bjudstad would get his second power play goal of the night.
The Gophers (23-7-4, 15-7-5 WCHA) would score two third-period goals in about seven minutes and 27 seconds to lead the Gophers to a heart breaking 4-3 loss.
The Beavers (6-19-8, 5-15-7 WCHA) gave the Gophers everything they could handle and at times they were the better of the two teams, but untimely penalties by the Beavers did them in. You cannot give the Beavers power play too many chances.
Bemidji State Beavers head coach Tom Serratore on his team’s play.
“I thought we played a pretty good 60 minute game,” Serratore said. “I thought we had good possession time. I thought we went to the net well. I thought we had good scoring chances. Guys made plays. Obviously, again the thing that tough to swallow is that third period lead and you give it up. We’ve done that too much this year.”