Four Beavers Named To All-WCHA Teams
Edina, Minn. – Bemidji State University men’s hockey junior goaltender Michael Bitzer has been selected to the All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s First Team, highlighting the announcement of the WCHA’s 2016-17 postseason awards. In addition, senior Phillip Marinaccio earned a spot on the All-WCHA Second Team, junior forward Gerry Fitzgerald was a third-team pick and freshman Zach Whitecloud rounded out BSU’s postseason awards as a member of the All-Rookie Team.
Bitzer finished the regular season as the WCHA’s goaltending champion, posting the league’s best save percentage (.940), goals against average (1.40), win total (20) and winning percentage (.778), while he was tied for the WCHA’s lead with five shutouts in association play.
In 37 appearances and an NCAA-high 2,219:13 minutes between the pipes, Bitzer has compiled a record of 22-12-3. He has made 852 saves on 913 shots faced for a .933 save percentage and the nation’s best goals against average (1.65) to go with an NCAA-best six shutouts. He has backstopped a BSU defense that boasts the best goals allowed per game mark (1.89) and a penalty-kill unit that has been among the top three in the country all season (.885). He is the first BSU goaltender to record at least 22 wins since Steve O’Shea in 1986-87, owns BSU career shutouts record (16), matched his own BSU single-season record with six in 2016-17, and sits atop BSU’s career goaltending lists with a .926 save percentage and a 1.86 goals against average. He is also a four-time defensive player of the week recipient (Oct. 17 and 31, Nov. 14 and Dec. 21) in 2016-17.
In addition, Bitzer ranks second on BSU’s all-time goaltending minutes played list with 5,898:10 minutes played, is fifth on BSU’s all-time saves list (2,286) and is eighth on the Beaver Hockey victories list (49).
The 2014-15 WCHA Rookie of the Year and all-rookie team selection, the All-WCHA First Team selection is the third postseason award for the junior.
Marinaccio, an All-WCHA Second Team selection, has had a breakout season as a senior. In 39 games, he leads the Beavers in scoring by posting a career high 28 points on 10 goals and 18 assists. After recording 29 points (8g-21a) during his first three seasons as a Beaver, he has nearly doubled his career point total this season and established a career-high goal total. The Nobleton, Ontario native recorded 21 points (7g-14a) in league play to tie for 10th among the WCHA’s top scorers. Marinaccio was the WCHA’s Nov. 8 Player of the Week.
In 145 collegiate games, the senior has 57 points (18g-39a) and makes his first appearance on the All-WCHA team.
Gerry Fitzgerald, an All-WCHA Third Team pick, is second on the team in scoring with 25 points (12g-13a). The junior from Port Alberni, British Columbia tied for second on the team with 12 goals, which includes a team-best eight goals on the power play and four game-winning goals this season, while he established a career-high 13 assists. With 18 points (12g-6a) in league play, the junior is tied for 22nd among all WCHA players in scoring, while his eight power-play goals lead the league and his 13 points on the man advantage are good for second.
He is currently on a seven-game point streak (4g-4a). With 69 points (33g-36a) in 110 games as a Beaver, Fitzgerald is already among the top 20 scorers of BSU’s NCAA Division I career-scoring list. This also marks Fitzgerald’s first postseason award.
Whitecloud a WCHA All-Rookie Team selection, made an immediate impact on the Beavers. The newcomer leads all BSU defensemen and rookies in scoring with 16 points (3g-13a) and is tied for second on the team in assist scoring. With 13 points (1g-12a) coming in WCHA play, the rookie ranks 16th among all WCHA defensemen and 12th among league freshmen in scoring. A member of BSU’s top power-play unit form day one, Whitecloud is second on the team in power-play scoring as 14 (2g-12a) of his 16 points have come on the man advantage, while he ranks fourth among all WCHA scorers with 12 (1g-11a) power-play points in league play. In addition, he also ranks second on the team with 55 blocked shots.
Bitzer stands as the first BSU player to be an All-WCHA First Team honoree, while 2016-17 four-player contingent stands as BSU’s best postseason awards showing since the team joined the WCHA for the 2010-11 season and the league isn’t done handing out its 2016-17 awards. The WCHA will announce its major individual awards leading up to the league’s tournament championship game, March 18.
Bitzer and Fitzgerald are also two of a league-best 20 BSU student-athletes named to the 2016-17 WCHA All-Academic Team. The group includes: Nate Arentz, Justin Baudry, Kyle Bauman, Brett Beauvais, Dan Billet, Michael Bitzer, Dillon Eichstadt, Gerry Fitzgerald, Leo Fitzgerald, Myles Fitzgerald, Brendan Harms, Jordan Heller, Ian Janco, Adam Lovick, Reid Mimmack, Charlie O’Connor, T.J. Roo, Mike Soucier, Carter Struthers and Jesse Wilkins.
A total of 143 student-athletes, representing all 10 WCHA-member institutions, earned the distinction as members of the men’s 2016-17 All-WCHA Academic Team.
To be recognized as a member of the All-WCHA Academic Team, member team student-athletes must meet the following criteria: 1) have completed one year of residency at present institution, prior to the current academic year; and 2) have a grade point average of at least 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) for the previous two semesters or three quarters.
Voting for WCHA awards and all-league teams is done by member team head coaches.