I’m pretty sure it’s official: The hockey gods do not like me very much.
For the fourth straight game at the Sanford Center, Bemidji State’s fate was not decided until the final minutes of play. The Beavers went to overtime Friday night and settled for a 2-2 tie with Alaska Anchorage. This after losing both games of last weekend’s series against Michigan Tech in overtime.
Saturday night was slightly different. This time the Beavers (thankfully for the Pioneer’s deadline) did not go to overtime. But it wasn’t until the final buzzer that BSU could breathe a sigh of relief.
Sam Rendle scored the game-winner with just 2:29 left in regulation and the Beavers held on to beat the Seawolves – their first win in the month of November.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a game at the Sanford Center without a major delay. Our deadlines at the Pioneer on Saturdays are a ridiculously early 10:30 p.m. Last Saturday, BSU forced overtime then lose the game with just 30 seconds to go. I wasn’t able to do interviews.
In this game, there was no overtime, but a 20-minute delay after a Zamboni malfunction in the first intermission sunk any chances I had of going down to the media room after this one.
Luckily for you, the BSU media people have kindly recorded the Beaver press conference and put it online. You can see it for yourself at the top of the page. The story in Sunday’s paper went to press without quotes, but I’ve added a few to the story online, which you can find here.
The point of all this wasn’t to complain (well, not the MAIN point), but to say I have a few thoughts about this series that I couldn’t fit in my stories this weekend. Here goes:
1. Jordan George makes things happen. This, obviously, is the understatement of the year. But George has been a big sparkplug for BSU in the past five or so games. He didn’t score tonight, but he assisted on Sam Rendle’s game-winner. Rendle, a defenseman, all but admitted that he had no idea what he was doing with the puck when he picked the pocket of the Anchorage defender. So he gave it to George, who directed traffic and found Rendle with a great pass through the defender. George is now the team’s leading scorer with 9 points (3 goals and 6 assists).
2. Inopportune penalties are a big problem. The Beavers have given up eight power play goals this season. Of those eight, only one was a game-winner. But the others? Four of them happened in the third period. Michigan Tech and Alaska Anchorage both used power play goals to rally from 4-1 deficits. Anchorage scored twice on the power play Saturday, and also scored on a 6-on-5 during a delayed penalty Friday night (which doesn’t technically count as a power play goal). The penalty kill is usually BSU’s biggest strength, but right now the Beavers are taking too many third-period penalties and giving teams chances to get back into the game. Their PK has suffered accordingly. 32-for-40 (80 percent) isn’t terrible, but it has to be better if BSU is going to keep taking those penalties. The Beavers survived against Anchorage but that may not be the case against stiffer competition.
3. Dugas has the hot hand. After Andrew Walsh was stellar in the first four games of the season – going 2-1-1 with a .955 save percentage and 1.48 GAA – he seemed to have a lock on the starting job. But the sophomore ran into some hard times, losing three in a row and seeing his GAA inflate to 2.69. Mathieu Dugas has started BSU’s last three games in his stead and Serratore said he’s going with him for the time being because he’s hot.
“He played well (Friday) night, he’s playing well in goal in general. He’s got the hot hand, so we’re going to go with him.”
Dugas made a career-high 40 saves against Michigan Tech last Saturday but the Beavers lost in overtime 2-1. He had a few close calls in Friday’s OT against UAA – including one that clanged off the post – but made a huge blocker save on a 2-on-1 with 30 seconds left to preserve the tie in the same game.
It’s hard to say that either Dugas or Walsh is the better goaltender right now. I’ve seen both make some good saves and let in some “Huh?” goals, but since neither has established himself as a clear No. 1, a rotation based on the “hot hand” may be the best option at this point.
4. Much-needed points. This is also a no-brainer. BSU needed points this weekend. They got three of four, which gives puts them in a three-way tie for seventh place with Minnesota State – BSU’s next opponent – and idle Tech. The Seawolves are now in last place with just three points. The Mavericks are riding a sweep of Wisconsin in Madison this weekend, so it will be an interesting series for both squads.