Lakers relinquish early two goal lead, suffer sweep at hands of Bemidji

SAULT STE. MARIE – Lake Superior State could not protect an early two goal lead, as the red hot Bemidji State Beavers scored five 2nd period goals en route to a 6-3 win over the Lakers at the Taffy Abel Arena.

The Beavers (11-6-5, 8-4-4-2 WCHA) have now won six straight games, and are unbeaten in their last nine.

“They’re a good defensive team, especially with [Michael] Bitzer in net,” said Lakers head coach Damon Whitten.  “We’ve got to be better defensively and we need better goaltending.  It’s going to be a long night if your goaltending doesn’t give you the chance to compete.  Same thing with special teams, giving up two shorties and a power play goal.”

Lake Superior (5-15-4, 3-10-3 WCHA) opened the scoring just over a minute into the game, when Hand put the puck past Bemidji State netminder Michael Bitzer, earning his 5th goal of the season.

Later in the period, Hand picked up his second goal of the night, making the score 2-0 in the Lakers’ favour.

“Jake Hand had a good start to the game with a couple of goals, which gave us some life and energy.  We were not good enough defensively from a team perspective and we’ve got to be better that way.”

Bemidji State fought back, getting a goal from Justin Baudry.  With 0:07 left in the first, the Beavers appeared to tie the game.  The initial call on the ice was no goal, and a lengthy review of the play upheld the call on the ice.

The second period saw the Beavers rattle off three unanswered goals in 5:28.  Among the goals were two shorthanded goals, courtesy of Kayle Bauman.

“They hurt you momentum-wise,” remarked Whitten, on shorthanded goals.  “They don’t come from grade A situations, and they can be very demoralizing.”

Although Max Humitz got a goal back on the power play, goals from the Beavers’ Charlie Combs and Zach Whitecloud made it 6-3 after two periods.  Following the goal by Combs, Kossoff was replaced in net by Mareks Mitens, but returned at the start of the third period.

“I think we needed a change at the time,” said Whitten, on the change.  “We weren’t getting enough out of that position, so we switched.  [Kossoff] went back in to start the third because we wanted to give him a chance to fight through the adversity.  He’s a junior, so we wanted to give him that shot.”

While Kossoff did not allow another goal the rest of the way, the Laker offense could not find the back of the net again, as Bemidji State completed the weekend sweep.

In goal, Bitzer picked up the win by making 15 saves on 18 shots.  Across the ice, Kossoff stopped 28 of 33, while Mitens was scored on with the only shot he faced.

With 12 points in the standings, Lake Superior sits in 9th place, seven points behind 8th place Ferris State, who is playing a Sat/Sun series with Bowling Green State.  The Bulldogs (9-13-1, 6-8-1 WCHA) will visit the Lakers next weekend.  Both games are slated to begin at 7:07 p.m.