No. 12 Bemidji State opens WCHA Championship weekend with Lake Superior State
The Bemidji State University men’s hockey team has advanced to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s semifinal game for the third consecutive season and is set to open the single-elimination championship weekend matched up with Lake Superior State University (17-6-3) at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in Mankato, Minn. at 7:37 p.m. Friday.
After sweeping Michigan Tech in a best-of-three opening round series and winning four straight, it is win or go home and two games is all that separates BSU from its first WCHA postseason title and an automatic berth into the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Friday’s semifinal marks the third occasion BSU and LSSU have met in WCHA postseason play, but the teams have a deep playoff history. BSU is 5-4 versus LSSU in the postseason, which includes victories over LSSU in 1968, 1969 and 1970 to win NAIA national championships. The teams also met in 1974. LSSU won the game and the national title. BSU is 2-3 versus LSSU in WCHA postseason play. LSSU swept BSU in a 2019 first-round playoff series. Last season, BSU defeated LSSU (W, 2-1, L, 5-3, W, 3-1) to advance to the semifinal before the NCAA shut down the season due to COVID-19.
Since the rivalry began in 1966, Lake Superior State holds a 35-33-6 edge, but BSU is 7-2-2 versus LSSU since the beginning of the 2019-20 campaign and hold a 2-1-1 advantage in the season series.
When BSU and LSSU met in Bemidji, Minn. March 2-3, BSU opened the series with a 2-1 overtime victory on a Tyler Kirkup goal. LSSU responded with a 5-2 rubber match to split the series on the strength of a hat trick from Ashton Calder.
Since joining the WCHA for the 2020-11 season, BSU is 10-19 in postseason play including a 9-16 mark in first round action and is 4-8 on at home in WCHA postseason play. Last season, BSU defeated Lake Superior State (W, 2-1, L, 5-3, W, 3-1) to advance to the semifinal round before the WCHA and NCAA shut the season down for COVID-19.
Ranked 12th in the most recent USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine national poll, BSU is 15-8-3 overall and holds down the No. 4 seed after finishing fourth in the league standings with an 8-5-1 conference record. At 17-6-3 overall, the Lakers finished second in the WCHA standings with a 9-5-0 league mark.
The top seed and host Minnesota State University (20-3-0) will face Northern Michigan University (10-16-1) in the 2:07 p.m. semifinal Friday. The winner of the MSU-NMU semifinal will face the victor of the BSU/LSSU semifinal in the title game at 7:07 p.m. Saturday.