BEMIDJI, Minn. — The Northern Michigan hockey team fell to Bemidji State, 3-1, in the third game of their WCHA quarterfinal series Sunday night at the Sanford Center.
Brock Maschmeyer's fifth goal of the season pulled the Wildcats within one late in the second period, but the regular-season champion Beavers withstood a late flurry and tacked on an empty-net goal in the final minute to advance to the WCHA semifinals.
Six minutes into the game, Bemidji State netted two goals in 34 seconds to build a 2-0 lead. At 5:18, Myles Fitzgerald sent a pass out in front from behind the net, and the puck deflected off of a Wildcat's skate and past Atte Tolvanen. Then, at 5:52, Brendan Harms beat Tolvanen with a bullet from the far edge of the left circle.
Northern Michigan was awarded its second five-minute power play of the series at 8:12 when Harms was assessed a major for checking from behind. The Beavers held fast, clogging up shooting lanes and blocking three shots so Michael Bitzer only had to deny a Dominik Shine one-timer from the top of the left circle.
With just under six minutes to go in the first, Maschmeyer went end to end and got a shot off despite being sandwiched by two Beavers. Bitzer stopped Maschmeyer's bid but left a rebound, and a trailing Anthony Paskaruk immediately jumped on it. Bitzer got a piece of Paskaruk's backhanded shot, sending the puck skittering behind the net and out of danger.
In the dying seconds of the opening stanza, Tolvanen stood tall to stuff Phillip Marinaccio on a 2-on-1 rush to keep the Wildcats within two.
Near the halfway mark of the second period, Bemidji State had 1:46 of a 5-on-3 man advantage after Northern Michigan was assessed back-to-back tripping minors. Like the Beavers during Harm's major, the Wildcats only gave up one shot on net, with Shane Sooth doing his part by blocking two bids.
Roughly two minutes later, Charlie O'Connor rang a shot off of the left post and out in transition. The play was reviewed at the next whistle, but the call on the ice stood.
At 17:40, Maschmeyer drew Northern Michigan back within a single strike on a man advantage. After corralling a Shine feed in the middle of the left circle, he skated in a few strides and threaded a shot between Bitzer's glove and the right post.
Bitzer made eight of his 19 saves in the third period to preserve Bemidji State's lead. Around the five-minute mark, Sooth and Gerard Hanson generated a 2-on-1 rush. Hanson dished the puck to Sooth, but Sooth tipped the puck wide of the empty net.
Shine had two of the Wildcats' best chances in the final frame. With 4:25 to go, he came up with the puck off of a face-off win, muscled his way through traffic and fired a shot on net that Bitzer managed to send aside. Later, after Northern Michigan pulled Tolvanen for the extra skater, Sooth found him through traffic in the slot, but he sent his shot just wide.
Marinaccio ultimately iced the game at 19:42, coming up with the puck along the boards and firing it the length of the ice into the empty net.
The Wildcats were the only lower seed to force a third game during the 2017 WCHA quarterfinal round. They wrap up the season with a 13-22-4 (10-15-3 WCHA) record. They went 9-6-2 (8-4-2 WCHA) in 2017.
NOTES: Bemidji State leads the all-time series, 11-5-3 ... Tolvanen made 25 saves in the game ... Shine finished the season with 30 points (20g-10a); he wrapped up his career with 97 points (48g-49a) in 131 games, the most among departing seniors ... Robbie Payne finished one point shy of 30 with 13 goals and 16 assists ... Maschmeyer's goal was the 25th of his career, good for seventh all-time among Wildcat defensemen ... This was the last game for Northern Michigan seniors Hanson, Maschmeyer, Casey Purpur, Sami Salminen, Sooth and Shine.