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Lakers and Beavers battle to 1-1 tie, Beavers claim shootout victory

Photo Courtesy Kati Doty
Photo Courtesy Kati Doty

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Renewing a classic rivalry dating back to their National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Ice Hockey Championship days of the late 1960's and 1970's, Lake Superior State skated to a 1-1 draw with No. 13 ranked Bemidji State in 11th meeting between the teams as Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivals.

Junior goaltender Gordon Defiel returning to his home state of Minnesota (Stillwater) for the first time in the 2016-17 season dazzled in net, making 33 saves for the Lakers in during regulation and five on five play before eventually falling in the sudden death shootout for the extra league point. The tie brings the Lakers to 8-8-1 overall and 5-7-1-0 in WCHA play.

The sides skated through a scoreless opening period in which the Beavers controlled much of the offensive play. Defiel was up to the task making 10 saves in the opening period and was seeing the puck well while his defensemen in front also blocked seven shots. Defiel's counterpart, Michael Bitzer, needed to make just four saves for a blank slate through the opening 20 minutes.

Both teams lit the goal light in the second period, beginning with Kyle Bauman for the Beavers. Bauman notched the game's first goal to break a scoreless deadlock 2:53 into the middle period.

Defenseman Justin Baudry did his job keeping a Lakers clearing attempt in the offensive zone and slid the puck to Bauman who was ready and waiting in the slot to fire the puck off the post and in the net. Senior linemate Charlie O'Conner also assisted on Bauman's sixth goal of the season.

Six minutes later the Lakers tied the game following a goalmouth scramble in front of Bitzer. A terrific individual effort by Diego Cuglietta led to the sophomore forward getting a shot off in tight while falling to his knees and junior forward J.T. Henke snuck in to tip the rebound passed Bitzer.

Henke's goal snapped an eight-game streak without a goal and delivered the ever-important and eventual game-tying goal. Freshman defenseman Collin Saccoman (Stillwater, Minn.) also assisted on the tying goal.

The final 20 minutes of regulation went by scoreless, despite an onslaught from the Beavers offensively. BSU outshot the Lakers 11-2 in the third period, but still went into overtime knotted at 1-1.

In the five-on-five overtime period the Lakers outshot BSU 3-2 but neither team found the net in their limited tries. The Beavers did however claim a power play late in the period and took a 4-on-3 advantage into the three-man overtime period for 48 seconds.

In the three-on-three overtime the Beavers controlled the offensive play through the first three minutes, due in large part to the leftover penalty time, however Defiel continued to shine and made three more unofficial saves to go into the shootout portion.

The Lakers opened the sudden-death shootout with Henke ringing the post to the right of Bitzer and a glove save by Defiel on the other end against Gerry Fitzgerald.

After a desperation kick save by Bitzer on Cuglietta, who had BSU's netminder all but beat, Fitzgerald's triplet brother, Myles, cemented the shootout victory lifting the puck over Defiel in the second round.

The 13th-ranked Beavers now sit at 12-5-2 overall and have a 12-1-2-2 mark in WCHA play.

The Lakers and Beavers conclude the series in Bemidji on Saturday night at 8:07 p.m. ET.