BEMIDJI, Minn. (Sanford Center) -- Locked in a scoreless tie for more than forty minutes, No. 11 Bemidji State University got a goal from freshman Carter Jones at the 2:35 mark of the third period to spark a Beavers' attack that would get two more to defeat No. 2/3 Minnesota State University, Mankato 3-1. The victory to open the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series brings second-place BSU to within three points of MSU in the league standings and sets up a showdown for the WCHA crown in the regular-season finale.
The victory extends BSU's unbeaten streak to a season-best eight games as the Beavers improved to 12-1-2 since the first of the year and garnered their 20th win of the season.
Jones, Charlie Combs and Brad Johnson accounted for Bemidji State's goals, while Nick Cardelli and Elias Rosen each returned from injury to contribute an assist in the game.
BSU goaltender Zach Driscoll won the head-to-head goaltending battle with MSU's Dryden McKay. While McKay posted a game-high 31 saves, Driscoll turned aside 25 of the 26 shots he faced, while holding one of the top-scoring offenses in the nation to just one goal. Most importantly, he got the win. In addition, the junior backstopped a Beavers' penalty-kill unit that snuffed out the Mavericks' only power-play chance of the night.
Bemidji State and Minnesota State traded blows in a fast-paced first period that came to an end without a goal. BSU managed a 9-8 edge in shots on goal despite the Mavericks getting what would be the only power-play of the game midway through the period.
Momentum started to swing in the Beavers' favor during the second period. Again, the goaltenders stood front-and-center while keeping the game scoreless, but it was McKay who did the really heavy lifting in the second as BSU outshot the Mavericks 15-7 in the frame.
Two minutes and 35 seconds into the final period, the Beavers were rewarded for their efforts. Carter Jones took an odd-angle shot from the near corner and McKay was late to close and the puck slipped between his skate and the post to ignite the 3,600 Beaver faithful at Sanford Center. But the Beavers didn't stop there. Just 1:25 later BSU struck again. Kyle Looft forced a turnover in the neutral zone and Combs picked up the loose puck in the high slot and sniped his 12th goal of the season to provide Bemidji State with insurance.
Down the stretch a desperate MSU team pressed.
BSU dodged bullet after bullet until Josh French capitalized on a loose puck in the slot. He fired a shot through a scrambling BSU line up and beat Driscoll, who was playing the puck without a stick.
Down 2-1, MSU pulled McKay for an extra attacker with 2:07 to play. The gamble failed. Johnson pulled the puck out of a scrum in front of the BSU bench and fired a 120-foot shot into the back of the net to put the game out of reach with 1:17 left on the clock.
The Beavers, now 20-8-5 overall and 20-4-3-2 in WCHA play, and Mavericks (28-5-2; 22-4-1-1 WCHA) will face off back at Sanford Center tomorrow to wrap up the regular season and determine the 2019-20 WCHA regular-season champion. The puck is set to drop at 6:07 p.m.