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College men's hockey: Bulldogs blanked in North Star College Cup semifinal

Bemidji State’s Nate Arentz controls the puck as Minnesota Duluth’s Cal Decowski follows Friday during the North Star College Cup in St. Paul. Trevor Cokley / For the News Tribune

ST. PAUL — After tying and losing to unranked Western Michigan a week ago at Amsoil Arena, Minnesota Duluth hoped for a fresh start this weekend facing Bemidji State at Xcel Center.

Instead, the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs got much of the same.

The unranked Beavers beat the Bulldogs in battles along the boards, beat them to loose pucks and beat them on special teams — just as the Broncos did — resulting in a 4-0 UMD loss on Friday afternoon in the first semifinal of the North Star College Cup.

It was the first time the Bulldogs lost back-to-back games all season and the first time they were shut out in 2014-15. UMD will meet No. 17 Minnesota, a 4-2 loser to No. 1 Minnesota State-Mankato, in the third-place game at 4 p.m. today.

“A lot of the guys in our room are looking at the bigger picture,” UMD senior defenseman Andy Welinski said. “We won a lot of big games and we got ourselves in a really good spot ranking-wise, but we just need to learn to be consistent every night. Whether we are ranked higher or lower than a team, we have to know they are going to come out and work hard. Tonight I think we got outworked.”

The Bulldogs are winless in their last four games since starting the second half of the regular season with a convincing 4-1 win at then-No. 1 North Dakota.

The next night at North Dakota is when senior captain and wing Adam Krause said things began to snowball. The Bulldogs led 1-0 midway through the first period before allowing four unanswered goals, including three in the second period, to lose 5-2.

“We’ve run into teams that unfortunately work super hard and teams that you don’t want to play during funks. It’s the way it is and we have to get out of it,” Krause said.

After coach Scott Sandelin loudly got done addressing his team after Friday’s loss, the Bulldogs held a players-only meeting. Krause said the meeting began with the players admitting they were indeed in a funk and the realization this is the same team that went 12-6 in the first half of the season.

“Sometimes it takes kind of a weird bounce or a weird goal or a hit or something to pull out of it,” Krause said. “It’s got to be back to basics. It has to come from us. It can’t come from coach Sandelin. It can’t come from anyone else. It’s got to come from the guys who play the game and we haven’t changed anything. Same players, same systems.”

Getting a weird bounce or weird goal on the power play could be especially helpful for the Bulldogs considering they have scored only two power-play goals in 18 advantages the past four games and none in their last 12 chances.

UMD went 0-for-5 on the power play Friday with six shots on goal despite getting a five-minute advantage in the first period when trailing 1-0 and a 54-second 5-on-3 advantage down 3-0 in the third.

The five-minute power play came less than a minute after Bemidji senior defenseman and captain Matt Prapavessis scored on a man-advantage to give the Beavers a 1-0 lead. The Bulldogs were credited with five shots on goal while Beavers junior wing Markus Gerbrandt sat for charging.

At one point during the advantage, only two of Bemidji’s four penalty-killers had sticks in their hands, but nothing found the back of the Beavers’ net.

“We had a five-minute major and you know what? If you score a goal or two, it’s a different game,” Sandelin said. “Our power play has struggled to score and that proved again the case tonight. Who knows, if we score early, then maybe our power play is great.”

The Bulldogs also struggled in their battles along the boards and races to loose pucks against Bemidji State, something that was true as well against Western Michigan and even in Game 2 against North Dakota.

Bemidji State freshman forward Leo Fitzgerald — who plays on a line with his triplet brothers Gerry and Myles — said the Beavers picked up on those struggles in film study and made it a point to pressure the Bulldogs, specifically the defensemen.

“There were some things tactically we wanted to accomplish and I thought we thought our guys did a very good job of that,” Beavers coach Tom Serratore said. “We wanted to really pressure on the forecheck.”

The Beavers went ahead 2-0 midway through the second period when two of the Fitzgerald triplets, Leo and Gerry, were able to outskate a pair of Bulldogs on a rush and pass the puck past defenseman Carson Soucy, with Gerry passing to Leo for the goal.

Less than three minutes into the third period, senior defenseman Sam Windle gave the Beavers a 3-0 lead after the Bulldogs turned the puck over behind their own net.

Bemidji freshman center Kyle Bauman added the final goal of the game midway through the third period.

“Like I always say, ‘The train is a little bit off the track, but it’s not completely off the track,’” Sandelin said. “We just have to get back to certain things and it starts with you have to work hard through it. It’s not going to be easy. Nothing is easy.”

Bemidji State........... 1-1-2—4

Minnesota Duluth.......... 0-0-0—0

First period — 1. BSU, Matt Prapavessis 6 (Brendan Harms, Cory Ward), 12:58 (pp). Penalties — Brenden Kotyk, UMD (cross checking), 7:42; Justin Crandall, UMD (slashing), 12:33; Markus Gerbrandt, BSU (charging major), 13:29.

Second period — 2. BSU, Leo Fitzgerald 2 (Gerry Fitzgerald, Prapavessis), 9:26. Penalties — Brett Beauvais, BSU (interference), 12:12; Myles Fitzgerald, BSU (cross checking), 15:23; Kyle Osterberg, UMD (embellishment), 15:23.

Third period — 3. BSU, Sam Windle 1 (Phillip Marinaccio), 2:48; 4. BSU, Kyle Bauman 3, 9:30. Penalties — Phillip Marinaccio, BSU (elbowing), 5:38; BSU penalty: Graeme McCormack, BSU (slashing), 6:45; Derik Johnson, UMD (slashing), 9:30; Johnson, UMD (kneeing), 12:51; Adam Krause, UMD (holding), 13:05; Myles Fitzgerald, BSU (hooking), 17:01.

Shots on goal — BSU 10-9-7—26; UMD 9-10-9—28. Goalies — Michael Blitzer (28 shots-28 saves); Kasimir Kaskisuo (26-22). Power plays — BSU 1-of-5; UMD 0-of-5. Referees —Stephen McInchak, Kevin Langsworth. Linesmen — Bruce Vida, Nick Huff.

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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