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Beavers showered by teddy bear cascade, secure another 5-point weekend over Bulldogs

Feb. 16—BEMIDJI — Rhys Chiddenton pictured what scoring his first goal at the Sanford Center would be like, but what happened after took him by surprise.

Trailing 1-0 against Ferris State in the second period, the Bemidji State men's hockey freshman buried a one-time pass from Jake McLean to tie the game. Then, a wave of teddy bears was thrown over the glass as Chiddenton and his teammates skated through the handshake line.

"To be honest, I didn't even know it was teddy bear night," Chiddenton said, laughing.

The Beavers picked up a 4-1 win over the Bulldogs on Make-A-Wish Night, a promotion that included a teddy bear toss after the Beavers' first goal. Dozens of fans threw plastic-wrapped bears, alongside a giant stuffed unicorn, of all shapes and sizes after Chiddenton's tying tally.

The celebration didn't shock his teammates as much as it did him.

"I knew it was teddy bear night," Kirklan Irey quipped.

Irey made it 2-1 just 99 seconds later on a one-time shot that sniped the top right corner of the net. Eric Martin and Lleyton Roed preceded the go-ahead goal with a tic-tac-toe passing sequence that found Irey alone in the slot.

"That felt great," Irey said. "Roedy and Marty set me up pretty nice there. I just had to put it in the back of the net."

The Bulldogs scored the game's first goal seven minutes into the first period. Stepan Pokorny wristed a shot from the point through a screen to give FSU a 1-0 lead.

After an even 7-7 first period in shots on goal, BSU bullied its way to a 21-2 advantage in the middle frame. Head coach Tom Serratore was impressed with Bemidji State's puck control below the goal line, which led to extended offensive-zone possessions.

"We call it our ground game, and our ground game was really good," Serratore said. "It's hard to establish because the defending team has something to say about it. Overall, if you get that ground game established, you'll possess the puck, draw some penalties, generate some offense and force a line change when they do get out (of the zone)."

The Beavers blew two third-period leads in their last two games, leaving two important points on the table in the CCHA standings. However, Friday night played out differently.

Lleyton Roed ripped a one-timer past Ferris State goaltender Noah Giesbrecht midway through the third period to put BSU ahead 3-1.

Roed's 14th goal this season was sparked by Bemidji State goaltender Mattias Sholl's sliding pad save on FSU's 2-on-1 rush. Patrik Satosaari cleared the loose puck to Martin, who found Roed all alone on the far side of the ice in the offensive zone for the third goal.

"Shollsy made a great save," Serratore said. "It probably should've been a goal, but it was a great save. Then we go down and make it 3-1 to get that insurance goal."

Serratore praised Jere Vaisanen for his increased physicality after Thursday night's 3-2 overtime win over Ferris State. Vaisanen scored again on Friday for the fourth time in five games to make it 4-1 with 4:49 left in regulation.

"In this game, in this sport, sometimes you get hot," Serratore said. "When you get hot, you're feeling it. When you're getting success, you recognize how you're getting success, and you keep doing that. ... It's all about the process. If you're competing, playing physical, playing hard, doing the things necessary and all of the things we want out of players; if you're doing those things, offense takes care of itself."

Chiddenton won't be caught off guard the next time he plays on Make-A-Wish Night.

The freshman out of Campbellville, Ontario, played in just his 16th game this season, which would've been less if not for the myriad injuries suffered by Bemidji State's more veteran players.

During games missed by top-nine forwards, players like Chiddenton, Noah Quinn, Alexander Lundman, Liam Engström, Donte Lawson and Jakub Lewandowski all played bigger minutes. Now that the Beavers are mostly healthy, the experience gained by those players is paying off in depth roles.

"It felt really good to get that one out of the way," Chiddenton said of his first goal at home. "It was nice to get that one off my back. ... Our line, we said we were going to work together. We wanted to force pucks low and work our butts off, and that's what we did. We worked as hard as we could and got our feet moving. We made the most of our opportunities."

Chiddenton and Lawson were in the lineup on Friday. A day earlier, Quinn and Engström got a crack at Ferris State (10-20-1, 6-15-0 CCHA). With a handful of guys vying for ice time on the fourth line, the competitive spirit to stay in the lineup pushes the rest of the roster.

"Those guys got more playing time," Irey said. "Now that they're pushed down on a lower line, it doesn't mean they're actually on a lower line. We just all play a similar way. We can actually roll with four lines now that we have that depth."

Serratore was impressed with the collective effort on Chiddenton's goal. McLean and Pohlkamp picked up assists, giving the Beavers their first goal this season where all three points awarded went to freshmen.

"They make plays," Serratore said. "You take a look at that whole play. Donte made a little play to Eric, and Eric kicked it up to Jake. Jake made a heck of a pass. I looked at that between periods and went, 'Holy moly.' He made a heck of a pass to Rhys, and Rhys just drove to the net. He was going 55 miles per hour to the post. He had a heavy stick, and it was just a great play all around."

As it stands, the Beavers (15-15-2, 10-7-2 CCHA) will enter a road series against St. Thomas at 7:07 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23, in Mendota Heights in first place. That could change by the end of the weekend, but BSU is as confident as it's been all season after taking home 10 out of 12 points in its last four games.

"It's huge for us," Chiddenton said. "All in all, we came together. I feel like we're becoming a family out there."

Bemidji State 4, Ferris State 1

FSU 1 0 0 — 1

BSU 0 2 2 — 4

First period — FSU GOAL: Pokorny (Shoudy, Brancheau) PP, 7:14.

Second period — BSU GOAL: Chiddenton (McLean, Pohlkamp) 3:19; BSU GOAL: Irey (Martin, Roed) 4:48.

Third period — BSU GOAL: Roed (Chiddenton, Satosaari) 13:07; BSU GOAL: Vaisanen (Wolfe, Jones) 15:21.

Saves — Sholl (BSU) 18; Giesbrecht (FSU) 36.