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MEN'S HOCKEY: Energized BSU claws back to tie UND 2-2

Bemidji State goalie Michael Bitzer blocks a goal attempt by UND's Cole Smith Saturday night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Bemidji State defenseman Dillon Eichstadt (#20) blocks the Beaver goal crease for goaltender Michael Bitzer in the first period of Saturday's home hockey game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A five-minute major and game misconduct is not normally a momentum booster, but it was for the Bemidji State men’s hockey team Saturday night.

The Beavers (11-7-6) held No. 7 North Dakota to one goal on the extended power play in the second period and Dillon Eichstadt scored an equalizer in the third to play to a 2-2 tie with the Fighting Hawks (12-6-6) in a non-conference battle at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Jordan Heller was given the five-minute penalty for checking from behind and Christian Wolanin scored a go-ahead goal to make it 2-1. But BSU killed off the last three minutes of the power play and gained new life in the process.

“When we killed off that five-minute major, we gave up a goal,” BSU coach Tom Serratore said, “but as we killed that five-minute major off, I just thought we had a good hop in our step. From that point on I thought we were really in command the rest of the game.”

The Beavers took advantage of a fortunate bounce to tie the game midway through the final frame.

Kyle Bauman’s shot appeared to deflect off two skates -- Eichstadt’s and UND defenseman Colton Poolman’s -- and past goalie Cam Johnson for the equalizer at 9:43 of the third.

An up-and-down overtime saw scoring chances from both teams, but the final score stayed at 2-2.

Close games are to be expected with these teams. After Saturday, nine of the last 13 games in the series have been decided a goal or less.

“We’ve had some good games with them the last few years and we’ve had a few close ones,” said BSU goalie Michael Bitzer, who made 29 saves, including five in overtime. “I think you’ve got to expect that, especially two high-energy teams, two teams that like to play fast.”

UND had the bulk of possession in the first period and outshot BSU 12-3 in the opening frame. However, the teams went to intermission scoreless as Bitzer made some clutch saves in net.

Nick Jones scored his third goal of the series at 3:28 of the second period to put UND on the board first. Austin Poganski skated around the cage and fed Jones for the one-timer from point-blank range.

A hooking call on Dixon Bowen then set the Beavers up for their first power play.

Leo Fitzgerald helped create a traffic jam in front of the crease and bodied his way for a tip-in goal that tied the game at 1-1 at 13:15 of the second period. The goal was his first since Bemidji State’s opening-night win over Minnesota Duluth Oct. 13 and a 15-game absence due to injury.

However, the lead didn't last long.

Heller was issued the five-minute major, giving UND an extended power play just 36 seconds after BSU tallied the tying goal.

Wolanin collected a loose puck in the slot and buried it past for the go-ahead goal about two minutes into the advantage, giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead with 4 minutes, 13 seconds left in the period.

The Beavers upped the ante in the third period and on. The game resulted in a 2-2 tie but BSU came away satisfied with their play late.

“We could have ended it a couple times,” Serratore said. “I just really liked the possession we had. Again, we went a lot of back-to-back shifts in that third period. Once we won those back-to-back shifts, you could just feel that energy on the bench.”

Bemidji State will return to Western Collegiate Hockey Association play next weekend with a series at Ferris State.

Bemidji State 2, No. 7 North Dakota 2

BSU 0 1 1 0 -- 2

UND 0 2 0 0 -- 2

First period -- No scoring.

Second period -- 1, UND, Jones (Poganski, Poolman), 3:28; 2, BSU, L. Fitzgerald (Harris, Baudry), 13:15, PP; 3, UND, Wolanin (Adams, Bast), 15:47, PP.

Third period -- 4, BSU, Eichstadt (Bauman), 9:43.

Overtime -- No scoring.

Goaltending (Shots-Saves) -- BSU, Bitzer (31-29); UND, Johnson (20-18).

Austin Monteith

Austin Monteith is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is an Illinois native and a Butler University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @amonteith92.

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