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MEN'S COLLEGE HOCKEY: BSU can't complete comeback as Michigan Tech holds on for series sweep

Bemidji State goalie Michael Bitzer (1) stops the puck in the second period of the WCHA quarterfinal matchup against Michigan Tech on Saturday, March 3, at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn. (Jillian Gandsey | Forum News Service)1 / 2
Bemidji State senior Leo Fitzgerald (19) battles with Michigan Tech's Alex Smith for the puck in the WCHA quarterfinal game Saturday, March 3, at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn. (Jillian Gandsey | Forum News Service)2 / 2

BEMIDJI, Minn.—A would-be miraculous comeback attempt nearly saved the Bemidji State men's hockey team's season Saturday night, March 3, but it was not meant to be.

The fourth-seeded Beavers fell 5-4 to fifth-seeded Michigan Tech in Game 2 of a WCHA quarterfinal-round playoff series as the Huskies advanced to the semifinals with the series sweep.

Trailing 4-1 with under three minutes in regulation, the Beavers clawed back to cut the deficit to one goal. With the puck and players scrambling around the crease, the Beavers nearly drew even in the final seconds, only for Tech to hang on for the victory.

"Overall, we played three pretty good periods of hockey," BSU coach Tom Serratore said. "I was proud of the guys... . We obviously played well enough to win that game."

Early on, Mitch Reinke set MTU off on the right foot with his goal 41 seconds into the game.

The Huskies bagged their second goal minutes later while shorthanded. Tech jumped out to an odd-man rush off the faceoff to begin the penalty. Joel L'Esperance played a puck across the slot to Lucchini, who stickhandled around Michael Bitzer for the short-handed goal.

"We fell behind early and the biggest shot in the foot was probably that goal in the first (41) seconds or so," Serratore said. "You're playing catch-up hockey immediately, and then they get the short-handed goal, which it doesn't help your psyche a little bit."

The Beavers were the lucky recipients of back-to-back penalty calls on MTU, leaving them with a 5-on-3 power play for nearly a minute. A hair after the first penalty expired, Gerry Fitzgerald pocketed a power-play goal with his shot on a screened Devin Kero. The goal was the first for the senior since Jan. 5 after missing 11 games before returning to the lineup Friday.

As was the case Friday, an untimely penalty cost BSU again in the third period.

Dillon Eichstadt went to the box for charging at 12:20 of the frame, giving MTU its second man advantage of the game. Justin Misiak got a stick on Mark Auk's shot from the left circle to create a two-goal margin with 6:59 to go in the game.

L'Esperance buried a one-timer off a Lucchini feed for a 4-1 advantage with 4:44 remaining, seemingly dashing any comeback hopes.

However, the Beavers pulled Bitzer for an extra attacker in the final three minutes and got one back on Jay Dickman's rebound goal.

An empty-netter made it 5-2 with 1:28 to play.

Yet BSU struck again with the extra skater, this time on Justin Baudry's goal with 1:13 left.

Seventeen seconds later, Charlie Combs suddenly narrowed the gap to one with 56 seconds remaining on the team's third goal with an extra attacker.

Bemidji State came close to tying the game during a frantic final possession, but the Huskies escaped with the win.

"We were entertaining as heck tonight," Serratore said. "And of course at the end we were just a little short but it was exciting."

Bemidji State ends its season with a 16-14-8 record. Michigan Tech advances to the WCHA semifinals where it will meet a to-be-determined opponent.

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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