For playing Bemidji State for the first time all season, it seemed like Minnesota had a lot of repeat performances.
Nick Bjugstad scored two power play goals, including the game-winner, as Minnesota (23-7-5, 15-7-5 WCHA) defeated Bemidji State 4-3 Friday. His night overshadowed a two goal effort by Bemidji State freshman Cory Ward in defeat.
Minnesota came out strong in the first period following a week where they were sluggish early against Denver and it paid off early. Ben Marshall (Detroit Red Wings draftee) scored his first goal in 11 games 5:08 into the game when a pass to Travis Boyd (Washington Capitals) tipped off a defender's stick and went past Beavers goaltender Andrew Walsh.
Bemidji State (6-19-8, 5-15-7 WCHA), however, responded to the goal and controlled play for the next 15 minutes. Matt Prapavessis scored his first goal of the season on a rebound following a delayed penalty to tie the game at 1 four minutes after Marshall's goal. The Beavers and also had other chances to test Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bat Lightning), including a breakaway by Jordan George, but were unable to beat the freshman goalie.
Instead, they out-shot Minnesota 13-10; the third straight Friday that the Gophers trailed in shots after 20 minutes.
The second period looked like a repeat of the first right down to Bemidji State scoring a rebound goal to tie the game following a delayed penalty. While Minnesota came out strong over the first 5 minutes to take a 2-1 lead on Bjugstad's first goal, the Beavers slowly took over and imposed their will. The Gophers got too cute as the game slowed down and turnovers picked up.
That led to Ward scoring on a third effort off his shin to tie the game with 1:43 remaining in the 2nd period. Although it was reviewed, his goal stood and the freshman forward added another 2:30 into the third to give BSU their first lead of the night.
Bemidji, who is 1-11-4 on Friday night, appeared to be on the verge of upsetting the #2 Gophers before Justin Holl scored his second goal in as many games with 12:33 remaining. After taking a Michaelson pass, the junior spun around in front of Walsh, who made 24 saves Friday, and shot a backhand past him to tie the game at 3.
Both teams had opportunities to score - including a second breakaway opportunity for George - when Beavers defenseman Sam Rendle tripped Sam Warning with 5:37 remaining in regulation. Minnesota, whose power play went 1-9 against Denver last weekend, took all of 31 seconds to score the winning goal. Nate Schmidt found Bjugstad on the back door and the junior one-timed it home for his 19 goal of the season and second straight game-winner.
The Florida Panthers prospect has now scored 5 goals in his 3 games at Sanford Center.
With the win and victories by St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth, the Gophers clinched home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Minnesota can finish anyone from a tie with the Huskies to third place depending on tomorrow's results. Bemidji State will be the 11th seed regardless.
(WCH's Chris Dilks has sorted out all the WCHA playoff scenarios here).
Minnesota and Bemidji State play again tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast live from the Sanford Center on Fox Sports North Plus and TPT MN.
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