SAINT PAUL, Minn. – For the first forty minutes of their afternoon quarterfinal game in the WCHA Final Five against Minnesota-Duluth, Bemidji State was treated to a front row seat as the Bulldogs executed the formula that had made them so successful in the playoffs during their Final Five championship run in 2009. UMD got ahead early, limited the Beavers to only a handful of chances and held a 2-1 lead entering the final period.
Luckily for Bemidji State, the third period was more their style.
The Beavers tied the game just 28 seconds into the third, kept UMD on their heels throughout the period and got the game to overtime, where an unlikely hero – Shea Walters – netted his first goal of the season to give Bemidji State a 3-2 victory, and, more importantly, keep their its alive.
“I’m just proud of the guys,” Beavers’ head coach Tom Serratore said. “It was a great third period for us, and we were fortunate to get that last bounce.”
After Jack and Mike Connolly scored goals in the first period to give UMD a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, the Beavers went into an obvious shell. For most of the second stanza, they struggled to get the puck into the offensive zone. Even when they did, the Bulldogs were able to negate chances and clear the dangerous areas on the ice.
“I felt in the second period that we didn’t have good legs,” Serratore said. “I thought UMD took it to us, but we were thankful to be only down one-goal [heading into the third].”
Matt Read took advantage of a bad angle by UMD goalie Kenny Reiter to pull the Beavers even a half-minute into the third period, waking up the Bemidji State bench and an arena that could have used the second period to curl up in their chairs and take a nap.
Most importantly, though, was that the goal had the opposite effect on the Bulldogs.
“We had a good last shift [at the end of the third period], and to be honest, that’s the way we have to play the whole period,” UMD defenseman Mike Montgomery said. “We can’t come out and have just a one-shift effort like we did.”
Just how out of it were the Bulldogs? Not even a stopped penalty shot by Reiter with five minutes to play in regulation could get UMD motivated enough for more than two good shifts between the missed attempt and Walters’ goal six minutes and change into the extra frame.
“I think we are all comfortable in overtime, but tonight obviously wasn’t our night,” forward Mike Connolly said. “I think that’s mainly because of a lack of effort from the players.”
Bemidji State advances to play No.2 seed Denver in the first semifinal Friday afternoon in St. Paul.
As for the Bulldogs, they will have to wait and see where they will be placed in the NCAA tournament, which begins next weekend. Head Coach Scott Sandelin expects UMD’s tournament games to be much different than tonight’s game with BSU.
“The one thing about this team all year is that when they’ve had their backs against the wall, they’ve responded the right way every time,” Sandelin said. “I expect our team to do the same thing [next weekend].”