Bemidji State tries to build on North Star Cup in series vs. Bowling Green

Bemidji State Athletics
Fitzgerald: “We know what it takes to win.”

BEMIDJI, Minn. — With two wins against top 10 teams and a North Star College Cup title to its name, Bemidji State looks ready for the season’s home stretch.

Now, the Beavers will try to keep their level of play high for the final month of the season — especially considering their next two series feature two more top-10 matchups.

First up is No. 6 Bowling Green this weekend.

“They know how to win,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said of Bowling Green. “They’re rotating goaltenders, they’re generating offense, they roll four lines. They have very [good] chemistry and they feel really good about their game, and they should. They’re one of the top teams in the country.”

The Falcons (15-5-4, 11-3-2 WCHA) already swept the Beavers (9-12-3, 5-8-3) once, in a pair of close games in Bowling Green, Ohio, back in November.

Those games occurred while the Beavers were mired in an odd seven-game losing streak in which they were playing well but couldn’t seem to score with any consistency.

“I think we’re a lot stronger now than we were at the time,” BSU freshman forward Gerry Fitzgerald said.

“We have more chemistry. And we know what it takes to win. We just have to use our speed and keep playing the way we’re playing.”

BSU played well against the Falcons in both games. In the first meeting, Cory Ward scored first but the Falcons rallied for a win in what was, aside from the empty-netter, a one-goal game.

In the second game BSU outshot the Falcons 37-26 but lost thanks to a strange bounce on an empty-netter, which negated what would have been the game-tying goal by Markus Gerbrandt seconds later.

“Last time we played them, we played good hockey,” BSU defenseman Sam Windle said. “We just didn’t get the bounces to go our way.”

After that seven-game losing streak the Beavers are now unbeaten in nine of their past 11 games.

Despite a hiccup two weeks ago when they were swept at Lake Superior State, the Beavers have found the back of the net more often.

“I think we’re winning puck battles,” Fitzgerald said. “We were first to every puck. We used our speed. We’re a fast team, so it’s effective when we’re using our speed against other teams.”

Fitzgerald had a goal and an assist in the North Star Cup games last weekend, one of six different Beavers to light the lamp in the series.

Aside from its solid offensive performance, BSU’s defense also shined last weekend. BSU goaltender Michael Bitzer made 54 of 55 saves but BSU’s defense also blocked 26 shots in front of him on the weekend.

“I thought we played well defensively,” Serratore said. “Mike made saves he had to make, but our guys played well. There was a lot of sacrifice from all six guys on the ice. When a goalie plays well, it’s the other five guys also playing well. Defense was a six-man game. He was Johnny on the spot, but the defense was great.”

BSU’s penalty kill was a nearly-perfect 8-for-9. The only blemish was a goal that occurred late in a five-minute major penalty in the second period on Saturday, with one of BSU’s top penalty killers (Charlie O’Connor) the one in the box.

“They were dialed in,” Serratore said of the penalty kill. “You can sit there and say, ‘What did we do?’ But honestly, we didn’t do anything, the guys did it. A lot of it was emotion.

“Our guys got into a good rhythm. We had the ability to clear the pucks, and pucks kinda went our way.”

This article was written by Jack Hittinger from The Bemidji Pioneer and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.