Beavers battle back to earn 1-1 tie with No. 3 Minnesota Duluth

No. 3 University of Minnesota Duluth and its goaltender Kenny Reiter kept the Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team scoreless for over 58 minutes Saturday at the Bemidji Regional Event Center, but a late goal from Emil Billberg (Sr., F, Stockholm, Sweden) was all it would take to push the game to overtime and garner the Beavers’ first point as a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

“To me, tonight was a very good tie,” commented Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore.  “I thought our guys had a gutty, three-minute span from about the seven-minute mark to about the four-minute mark of the third period where we finally applied some sustained pressure and Emil popped that one.  So I am very proud of the resiliency of our guys.”

Billberg’s goal came at the 58:29 mark of the third period when Drew Fisher (Jr., F, International Falls, Minn.) won a battle on the boards and chipped the puck out to Dan MacIntyre (Sr., D, Fort Frances, Ontario) who found the native of Sweden streaking towards the net.  

“We always rely on our experienced players and Emil is just a totally different player this year.  He’s got jump in his legs, he’s been consistent and his battle level has been high,” said Serratore.  “He has really adapted to the North American game.  Because of injuries, he’s never had the opportunity to play a full season, so I am very proud of Emil.  He’s had a good month of hockey here so far.”

The Beavers and Bulldogs went toe to toe in a first period that saw UMD post a 10-9 edge in shots on goal, but each goaltender rose to the occasion stopping shot after shot, setting the stage for the remainder of the evening.

The Bulldogs caught the first break of the game at the 6:08 mark of the second period when Bemidji State’s Fisher and Brady Wacker (So., D, Jensen, Saskatchewan), who was also issued a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, were each set to the penalty box after being whistled for cross-checking, setting a full two-minute 5-on-3 opportunity for the visitors.  

Not only did the BSU penalty-kill unit successfully snuff out the UMD power-play opportunity, it also held the Bulldogs without a single shot on next during the span.

“That was a great kill for us,” said Serratore adding that because it came in the second period, the Beavers were stuck with long line changes compounding the situation. “It really kept us in there.”

After 40 minutes of scoreless, well-played hockey, it was the felling of the BSU coaching staff that one goal was all it would take to win the game.  So when Justin Faulk scored on the power play to put UMD up 1-0 just 3:51 mark of the third period, the Beavers could have thrown in the towel, but instead, the tally served as a wake up call.   The Beavers turned up the intensity and began to generate offense by tightening thier defensive pressure. Ultimately, BSU’s hard-nosed play resulted in a change of possession and Billberg gave the Beavers the break they needed beating Reiter high on a one-timer from the right faceoff dot.

The teams would complete regulation locked in a tie for the second consecutive night, this time 1-1.  In overtime, BSU went on the power-play just 43 second in, but it was UMD that recorded the best scoring opportunities putting two shots on net.  Just as in regulation, Mathieu Dugas (So., G, L’Assomption, Quebec) was steady between the pipes for Bemidji State, and would turn away both chances and the teams would settle for the tie.

“It feels really good to get a WCHA point in a big game like this,” commented Dugas.  “I wish there would have been a shoot out or something because I’d like to have settled this thing. I don’t really like ties, but we got a point and after last night it feels good.”

In his first start of the season, Dugas piled up 28 saves, including 10 stops in both the first and the second period, allowing just the third-period power-play goal in 65:00 minutes of play.  He moves to 4-2-2 in his career.  His counterpart, Reiter, turned away 19 BSU shots and moves to 3-0-2 on the season.

The Bulldogs remain in control of the all-time series holding a 19-9-1 advantage in games played between the teams since the series began in 1948, while BSU has been beaten only four times in the last 12 meetings between the teams (7-4-1).