Saturday January 24, 2015 was championship Saturday for the North Star College Cup with the consolation game between the Minnesota Gophers and the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs at 4, followed by the championship game between the number one ranked Mankato State Maveriks against the often overlooked Bemidji State Beavers, who made it to the finals by blanking the Bulldogs 4-0 in the first round.
The North Star College Cup was created in 2014 after the Minnesota Gophers blew up the WCHA by leaving them to form the newly created Big10 hockey league. As a consolation, trying to keep long standing rivalries within the state alive, the Gophers, Mankato, St. Cloud, Duluth and Bemidji (the five Minnesota teams in the old WCHA) decided to hold a four team tournament in the Twin Cities annually.
The second annual North Star College Cup could not have gone worse for the Gophers as they lost to the top ranked team in the country, the Minnesota State University Mankato Mavericks on Friday Jan. 23, 2015.
Minnesota forgot to show up on Saturday during the consolation game as the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. More accurately, maybe, the Bulldogs showed up with a chip on their shoulder and out-skated the Gophers throughout the game, winning 2-1 after scoring the winner with 5:56 left in the game.
The next game featured the top-ranked Mankato Mavericks against the un-ranked Bemidji State Beavers. Bemidji State played their hearts out and controlled the pace of the game from the opening faceoff. Bemidji State would win the game 3-1, bolstered by the brilliant play of their goaltender, Michael Bitzer, who stopped all but one of the 27 shots he faced on the evening, earning him the first star of the night.
The Beavers snatched the lead early in the first period. After almost 30 minutes of play, the Beavers scored again, bringing the score to 2-0. Later in the second period the Beavers increased the lead to 3-0, causing the Mavericks to increase their intensity for the first time in the game.
Mankato scored a power play goal after Bemidji picked up a five minute major on an interference call but, as the clock clicked down to three minutes remaining in the game, the Mavericks still trailed 3-1 and pulled goalie Stephon Williams. With over three minutes of 6-5 play, the Beaver defense, particularly their goalie, smothered every Maverick attack.
The Beavers win the second North Star College Cup and have now entered the conversation, and cannot be ignored anymore. Stay tuned to The Minnesota Sports Report for more news and photos from the College hockey season.