BEMIDJI, Minn. – Playing their final six games of the season on the road, the Lake Superior State Lakers would need to find a way to win on the road in order to have any shot at a WCHA playoff berth.
Following last week’s games against Bowling Green, Lakers head coach Damon Whitten said “we’re going to get in the playoffs, and to do it, we need to become road warriors.”
Whitten’s club took a step in the right direction, as the Lakers (7-20-4, 5-15-3 WCHA) blanked Bemidji State (14-9-6, 11-6-4 WCHA) 2-0 on Friday night.
Lake Superior came out strong in the first period, holding a 12-7 edge in shots on net. J.T. Henke opened the scoring when he notched his 9th goal of the season. Assisted by Bryan Basilico and Kyle Chatham, the Trenton, Michigan native put the puck behind Beavers goaltender Michael Bitzer for a 1-0 lead.
In the second period, Bemidji State began clamping down on the Laker offense, limiting them to just four shots. The Beavers, while getting eight shots of their own, were still being stymied by the Lake State blueliners.
An odd man rush helped Anthony Nellis widen the Lakers lead to 2-0 with his 10th of the season.
The final period saw the Beavers begin to successfully generate more shots on net than before. Despite seeing more rubber, Lakers netminder Nick Kossoff could not be beat.
Pulling Bitzer for an extra skater, Bemidji looked to get back in the game with under three minutes to play. Lake State’s Gage Torrel, who assisted on the Nellis goal, got the puck and attempted to ice the game away; Dillon Eichstadt took him down from behind.
While Eichstadt’s actions likely saved a goal, it essentially negated the action of pulling Bitzer. Forced to kill a minor penalty late in the game, the Beavers could not get any good chances on Kossoff, as the Lakers prevailed on the road by a 2-0 final score.
By stopping all 28 shots, Kossoff picked up his first shutout of the season, and the fourth of his career. His last shutout came on December 30, 2015 againt Brown in the Catamount Cup.
In addition, it was the first shutout for a Laker goaltender since Gordie Defiel shutout Minnesota State in Game 2 of the 2016 WCHA Quarterfinals.
Across the ice, Bitzer came up with 18 saves on 20 shots.
Neither team took advantage of their power play opportunites, as the Lakers were 0 for 4, while Bemidji was 0 for 1. A slashing penalty to Jake Hand was the only power play the Beavers were afforded.