MEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers rebounded in WCHA semifinals by Lake Superior State; NCAA fate turns cloudy
The fourth-seeded Beavers struggled offensively in a 4-1 loss to second-seeded Lake Superior State in the WCHA semifinals on Friday night at the Mayo Clinic Health Systems Event Mankato Center.
Mareks Mitens was nearly impenetrable at the net, making 26 saves to help the Lakers advance to Saturday’s WCHA Championship game against sixth-seeded northern Michigan.
Building on a 1-0 lead, Lake State scored twice in 2 minutes, 43 seconds late in the second period to take an impressive 3-0 advantage in the third period. The lead swelled to 4-0 in the third before Ethan Somoza scored BSU’s only goal late in regulation.
“We just ran after the game,” said head coach Tom Serratore. “We scored one goal and then two goals. They defend so well. … It just wasn’t meant to be tonight. Hats off to Lake Superior State. It was the best team tonight and it showed.
A win on Friday would have kept the Beavers in good standing as far as their NCAA tournament hopes, but they now find themselves in a precarious position going into selection on Sunday.
Northern’s 5-1 win over seeded Minnesota State earlier Friday could complicate matters further if the Wildcats win the league automatic selection on Saturday and steal an offer from a bubble team like Bemidji State . MSU is practically assured of a global offer.
“We have a fundamental interest. There are some teams that we clearly support, ”said Serratore, who was unwilling to make his presentation to the selection committee. “I know a lot of coaches have done it so far at the end of their season. I just think we have an NCAA committee made up of a lot of good hockey players. They have all the information, they have all the data. I just think you have to let these people do their jobs.
Lake Superior State goalie Mareks Mitens (30) deflects a shot on goal by Bemidji State forward Ethan Somoza (9) in the second period on Friday March 19, 2021, during the WCHA tournament at the Mayo Clinic Health Systems Events Center by Mankato. (Jason Wachter / The Ice Rink Live)
Dustin Manz whipped up a low-lunge shot that Brandon Puricelli collected and made a backhand for the game’s opening goal with 6:32 left in the first period.
The Beavers (15-9-3) had two power play opportunities in the second period, but failed to capitalize.
“We haven’t responded, and again it’s on us,” Serratore said. “It would have been nice to convert to a power play. We converted to a power play in the third period, but it was a bit too late.
After killing both penalties, the Lakers (18-6-3) added to their lead with 4:29 left in the second. Jacob Bengtsson held a puck at the blue line and fired a shot past an armored Zach Driscoll. The game was reviewed for a potential offside, but was maintained.
A BSU roll behind the net resulted in a third LSSU goal with 1:46 remaining. Yuki Miura played the puck at Hampus Eriksson in the lunge for the one-time goal.
Lukas Kaelble scored a fourth goal at 4:14 of the third period.
Bemidji State hammered offensively in the back half of the third period, but Mitens didn’t budge.
BSU pulled Driscoll for an additional attacker on a late power play. Somoza swept a rebound into the cage for the team’s first goal with four minutes remaining, although by then the damage was done.
“Every time we play them it’s a battle,” Somoza said. “It’s a really good hockey team, and you know what, they got the better of us today. They took the lead and we just couldn’t do anything until the end.
Driscoll had 17 saves at the net for Bemidji State, who finished 1 for 4 on the power play while maintaining LSSU 0 for 2.
Lake Superior State will continue to dance in a WCHA Upper Peninsula title match at 7:07 p.m. Saturday in Mankato. The Lakers are looking to land their first NCAA bid since 1996, while the Wildcats are looking for their first NCAA spot since 2010.
The Beavers will watch Sunday’s draft show with breath as they hope to land the program’s first NCAA entry since 2010. The field will be revealed at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 21 on ESPNU.
Lake Superior State 4, Bemidji State 1
BSU 0 0 1 – 1
LSSU 1 2 1 – 4
First period – 1, LSSU, Puricelli (Manz, Jeffers), 13:28.
Second period – 2, LSSU, Bengtsson (Eriksson, Mucha), 15:31; 3, LSSU, Eriksson (Miura), 18:14.
Third period – 4, LSSU, Kaelble (Eriksson), 4:14; 5, BSU, Somoza (O. Sillinger, Rosén), 4 p.m., PP.
Goalkeepers (shootouts) – BSU, Driscoll (17-21); LSSU, Mitens (26-27).