Minnesota State pitted tough matchup at Bemidji State

The men’s hockey team will look to capture a series win this upcoming weekend

For the second time this season, the Mavericks men’s hockey team will play the latter of back-to-back road series. WCHA rival Bemidji State University is slotted to host MSU over this Veteran’s Day weekend.

The Mavericks’ 2016-2017 season series against the BSU Beavers did not go in MSU’s favor, but the competition was fierce. With two of the four games going into overtime, the Mavs finished with a 1-2-1 record when playing the Beavers last year. The Mavericks’ one win against BSU was on the road just as the team is this weekend.

The Beavers finished last season with an overall record of 22-16-3 and a WCHA record of 20-6-2. The team’s performance earned 64 points in the conference standings; the most in the WCHA by 10 points to the second-place Michigan Tech which had 54.

Minnesota State falls one spot from No. 9 to No. 10 in the USCHO.com national poll this week. Bemidji State remains unranked in the poll but did receive 41 points in the voting. The last-place team in the 20-team poll received 61 points.

This far into the 2017-2018 season, Bemidji holds a 4-2-2 overall record and a 2-1-1 WCHA record. The Mavericks will be the second ranked opponent the Beavers will have faced this year. The University of Minnesota – Duluth Bulldogs was No. 9 in the polls when they played BSU to start the Beavers’ season on Oct. 13. The Beavers won their first game that Friday 5-2 in Bemidji, then ‘tied’ at zero in Duluth on that Saturday before a shootout win.

There are no common opponents between MSU and BSU at this point in the season but there will be plenty by the time these two teams meet again in February. Both teams fair well on the power play this season; Minnesota State has 10 power play goals on 41 opportunities in its nine regular season games.

Bemidji State boasts the top penalty-killing unit in the league. All but one of the team’s 28 penalties have been killed off successfully and the team also has one short-handed goal. Minnesota State’s special teams play will be challenged against the enduring Beavers’ penalty kill.

The Mavericks have committed 45 penalties in the 2017-2018 season, 39 of those were killed without allowing a goal. Minnesota State’s penalty kill ranks 14th in Division-I men’s hockey while Bemidji’s power play has scored on nine of its 33 chances, good for ninth-best in the league.

Maverick goalies Connor LaCouvee and Jason Pawloski have split time in the crease this season in contrast to BSU’s goalie Michael Bitzer who has played in every period this season except for one. He has a .926 save percentage in Bemidji’s eight games played according to collegehockeystats.net. Bitzer’s save percentage does drop a considerable amount to .908 when facing WCHA opponents this year, which has happened four times.

Minnesota State’s goalies combine for a .923 save percentage after facing 273 shots by opponents. The Mavericks are also outshooting their adversaries with an average of 33.3 shots-per-game to opponents’ 23.9 according to the team’s website.

Bemidji State sits four points behind the Mavericks in WCHA standings with eight points to MSU’s 12. Minnesota State is in competition with Bowling Green for the pole position in the conference. Bowling Green also has 12 points with one less loss than the Mavericks with a record of 3-1-2.

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