Thank you and goodbye, Bemidji

Saying goodbye is always difficult for me.

I am leaving town for a new professional opportunity and while I am excited for the future, I find myself reflecting on my Bemidji experience as a positive one.

I came to town in the summer 2007 to work for the Pioneer and did not expect to stay long. My opinion changed with the recession. The community and the great people I worked with on the sports beat were also compelling reasons to stay.

I spent the majority of my time covering Bemidji State athletics and covered Bemidji High School sports on occasion. All the people associated with those teams reflect the spirit of Bemidji’s hard-working population.

Things do not come easy in Bemidji no matter who you are.

Sports in Bemidji affirmed my belief there is no substitution for hard work. It may not always beat natural talent, but often makes the difference between winning and losing.

The consistent efforts of the teams I covered always inspired me to be at my best on the beat. I always worked as hard as I could with the resources I had to put out the best possible stories for you to read.

Sometimes I was proud of my work, especially the stories that made a difference in people’s lives and inspired you.

Sometimes I failed, made mistakes and was embarrassed.

I never let the result bother me too much as long as I put in an honest effort. Everything evens out in the end, just like sports.

I experienced so many amazing things during my time that proved how big a small town like Bemidji can be. Bemidji State’s run to the 2009 Frozen Four was unforgettable. The hard work of all the people in town to make the Sanford Center a reality was inspiring. Those kind of achievements do not happen overnight and are the result of many committed people working together toward a common goal.

The same could be said about Matt Bowen’s BSU men’s basketball team, Jeff Tesch’s BSU football team, Tom Serratore’s BSU men’s hockey team and Steve Sertich’s BSU women’s hockey team. Good things are around the corner for those programs.

There is no secret to their success: hard work and persistence. Go ahead and watch them play some time. You will see what I mean.

I wish I could mention all the people in Bemidji who inspired me in this space. Throughout my time I made a point to tell people like you what they meant to me (there were many) because I never knew what day in Bemidji would be my last.

You all will be missed but never forgotten.

Thank you Bemidji.

Follow Eric Stromgren on Twitter at @estromgren

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Bemidji State falls to Wisconsin 4-2 in first sweep allowed at home this season

Wisconsin's Frankie Simonelli, left, tries to maintain control of the puck as Bemidji State's Shea Walters, right, defends during the first period. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

The Bemidji State men’s hockey team lost to Wisconsin 4-2 Saturday night at the Sanford Center in the final home game of the regular season.

Wisconsin scored the final three goals of the game and Justin Schultz’s power-play score 3:47 into the third period put Wisconsin ahead for good.

Ben Kinne and Jordan George scored power-play goals for Bemidji State, and goalie Dan Bakala finished with 31 saves.

Brad Navin, Sean Little and Michael Mersch scored for Wisconsin, and goalie Joel Rumpel finished with 21 saves.

Wisconsin, which entered the weekend with one road win on the year, swept the Beavers after winning 4-2 on Friday night. It was the first sweep allowed on home ice this season for BSU, which is now on a season high four-game losing streak.

“It’s just two tough losses, we were inconsistent and we spent too much time in the penalty box tonight,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said.

Bemidji State (15-16-3, 9-14-3 WCHA) wraps up the regular season next weekend on the road at Alaska-Anchorage and will open the WCHA playoffs on the road the following week.

“We have to forget about these games now, go to Anchorage and go into the playoffs on a high note,” BSU defenseman Brad Hunt said.

Wisconsin (15-15-2, 10-14-2 WCHA) was dealt a big blow early in Saturday’s game when captain John Ramage was assessed a major misconduct penalty for contact to the head.

After going 0-for-5 on the power play Friday night, the Beavers scored on the ensuing five-minute power play when Kinne scored his 10th goal of the season. He jabbed the puck through Rumpel at the crease with 9:30 left in the period.

Navin tied the score 2:48 into the second period by putting back a rebound in front of Bakala.

George put BSU back up 2-1 on a power-play goal, his team-leading 16th of the season, with an open look at the side of the net five minutes later.

Little scored with 1:30 left in the second period to tie the game for the last time by taking a backhand pass from Frankie Simonelli and beating Bakala at the far side of the net.

Schultz put Wisconsin up 3-2 by picking the corner above Bakala’s shoulder on a shot from just inside the blue line with 36 seconds left in the checking from behind major penalty to BSU defenseman Jake Areshenko, who was lost for the game on the game misconduct penalty.

It was the 15th goal and 42nd point of the season for Schultz, an Anaheim Ducks draft pick.

Bemidji State’s attempts to score the tying goal were hampered by back-to-back minor penalties midway through the period. Kinne was called for an elbowing penalty 20 seconds after Darcy Findlay finished serving a boarding penalty.

“It was hard to get into a rhythm after giving up that goal on the five minute major for us,” Serratore said.

Mersch iced the game for Wisconsin by scoring an empty-net goal with 60 seconds remaining.

Scoring Summary

UW 0 2 2 – 4
BSU 1 1 0 – 2

First period – 1, BSU Kinne 10 (Walters, Hunt), 10:30, (pp).
Second period – 2, UW Navin 3 (Clark, Dahl), 2:48. 3, BSU George 16 (Walters, Hunt), 7:39, (pp). 4, UW S. Little 1 (Simonelli, Meuer), 18:30.
Third period – 5, UW Schultz 15 (McCabe, Zengerle), 3:47. 6, UW Mersch 13 (Dahl), 19:00, (en).
Shots on goal – UW, 6-16-13-35. BSU, 8-9-6-23.
Goalies – UW, Rumpel (23-21). BSU, Bakala (35-31).
Power plays – UW, 1-for-6. BSU, 2-for-4.
A- 3,891.

Photo Gallery

All photos by Eric Stromgren.

Jordan George, Joel Rumpel, Justin Schultz

Joe Faust and Darcy Findlay

Aaron McLeod

Ben Kinne, far left, scores the first goal for Bemidji State

Brendan Woods, Dan Bakala

Brendan Woods, Dan Bakala

Jamie MacQueen

Justin Schultz, Shea Walters, Joel Rumpel, Ben Kinne, Frankie Simonelli

Jordan George scores for Bemidji State in the second period

Follow Eric Stromgren on Twitter at @estromgren and on Facebook.

Saturday night line charts and pregame notes: Bemidji State vs. Wisconsin

Some pregame notes and line charts for tonight’s game against Wisconsin:

Radoslav Illo is back in the Bemidji State lineup on the second line after missing five games to an undisclosed lower body injury. That bumps Tyler Tosunian out of the lineup and Brance Orban down to the fourth line. Otherwise the lineup remains the same for the Beavers.

Wisconsin juggled its forward lineups a bit and the biggest change is in goal with Joel Rumpel. He’s healed up enough to play after having 20 stitches to sew up a gash above his knee. He’s missed the last two games with the injury. He’s 9-9-2 this season with a .910 save percentage.

Wisconsin
Forwards
Mersch 25-Zengerle 9-Barnes 7
Paape 8-Woods 21-R. Little 20
Labate 16-Meuer 12-S. Little 18
Navin 26-Dahl 14-Clark 17

Defensemen
Simonelli 26-Schultz 6
Ramage 55-McCabe 19
Springer 4-Faust 24

Goalies
Rumpel 33
Peterson 30

Bemidji State
Forwards
Kinne 9-McLeod 14-George 28
Orban 7-Walters 11-Boehm 4
MacQueen 17-Jubinville 12-Mattson 16
Tosunian 19-Fisher 13-Findlay 6

Defenseman
Hunt 29-Prapavessis 22
Areshenko 8-Windle 15
Carlson 5-Wacker 25

Goalies
Bakala 33
Walsh 30
Dugas 35

Follow Eric Stromgren on Twitter at @estromgren and on Facebook.

Bemidji State rally comes up short in 4-2 loss to Wisconsin

Bemidji State's Aaron McLeod, right, and Wisconsin's Ryan Little skate after the puck during the second period. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Jamie MacQueen almost bailed the Bemidji State men’s hockey team out of a sluggish start in Friday night’s 4-2 loss to Wisconsin Friday night at the Sanford Center.

The senior cut Wisconsin’s lead to 3-2 with a goal 80 seconds into the third period, but what looked to be the game-tying goal with 11:54 remaining was immediately waved off by referee Tim Walsh and the Beavers never recovered.

“As a player I think it’s good,” MacQueen said. “The way he described it, he said he had the intent to blow the whistle, so that’s his call and you can’t do anything about it I guess.”

The play, which cannot be reviewed by video under WCHA rules, started when Ben Kinne cut hard to the net and put a close shot on Wisconsin goalie Landon Peterson. MacQueen trailed the play and swatted at the puck in the crease.

“It’s the right call,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “He was putting the whistle in his mouth when it went in and he thought it was froze. That’s the rule, we’ve seen it a couple of times this year. When you need a goal so bad, you’re hoping they can overturn that but that was the intent. Those are the rules and you have to live by them.”

The disallowed goal was insignificant to Serratore in comparison to BSU’s play in the first and second periods.

The Beavers failed to score on three power plays in the first period and Wisconsin took control in the third period with three goals. Frankie Simonelli, Justin Schultz, and Michael Mersch scored in the second period, and John Ramage iced the win with an empty-net goal with 38 seconds remaining.

“We need to be better than that,” Serratore said. “We’ve had three Fridays in a row where we’ve been a little slow, have not had very good timing and have not been very hard to play against. We have to make sure we’re a different team tomorrow and hopefully we can play more like we did in the third period.”

Bemidji State (15-15-3, 9-13-3 WCHA) and Wisconsin (14-15-2, 9-14-2 WCHA) conclude the weekend series Saturday at 7:07 p.m. in the final regular season home game at the Sanford Center.

Friday’s marked Bemidji State’s third loss in a row and Wisconsin’s second road win of the season. BSU entered the game with the second-best home record in the WCHA and Wisconsin won its first road game since Jan. 13 at Minnesota State.

Bemidji State managed five shots on three first-period power plays before Areshenko gave the Beavers a 1-0 lead on a slap shot with 2:50 left in the period.

Wisconsin first two goals in the three-goal second period came on a pair of harmless-looking plays.

Simonelli’s dump into the BSU zone banked off the glass behind the net and into the goal off goalie Dan Bakala’s skate 3:57 in to tie the game. Shultz’s low shot on goal from the blue line just over two minutes later gave Wisconsin a 2-1 lead.

Wisconsin capped the controlling second period when Tyler Barnes fed Mersch on a two-man break and he picked the corner over Bakala’s shoulder for the 3-1 lead with 13 seconds left in the period.

The Beavers played a desperate game in the third period to shift the game’s momentum for a time.

MacQueen poked the puck through Peterson’s glove at the post 1:20 into the third period for BSU’s final goal.

Making his first start since October, Peterson made two key saves on Jordan George in the third period to keep Wisconsin in front. George, a Madison native, was stopped in close with 13 minutes to play and his tipped shot was pushed aside with just over nine minutes to play.

“We didn’t have our game,” MacQueen said. “It’s been an issue for us on Fridays as of late. It’s not good and we’ve got to fix that because it’s going to bite us.”

Scoring Summary

UW 0 3 1 – 4
BSU 1 0 1 – 2
First period – 1, BSU Areshenko 3 (Walters), 17:10.
Second period – 2, UW Simonelli 5 (LaBate), 3:57. 3, UW Schultz 14 (Mersch), 6:08. 4, UW Mersch 11 (Barnes, Zengerle), 19:47.
Third period – 4, BSU MacQueen (Kinne, Jubinville), 1:40. 5, UW Ramage 3(Zengerle), 19:22, (en).
Shots on goal – UW, 7-13-6-26. BSU, 11-8-11-30.
Goalies – UW, Peterson (30-28). BSU, Bakala (26-23).
Power plays – UW, 0-for-2. BSU, 0-for-5.
A-3,532.

Photo Gallery

All photos by Eric Stromgren.

Mark Zengerle and Shea Walters

Landon Peterson, Ben Kinne

Landon Peterson and Aaron McLeod

Justin Schultz, Ben Kinne

Brad Navin, Aaron McLeod, Dan Bakala, Breandan Woods

Jamie MacQueen

Jordan George

Danny Mattson

David Boehm

Jordan George and Jake McCabe

Justin Schultz (not pictured) scores Wisconsin's second goal

Matt Carlson

Dan Bakala and Michael Mersch

Matt Prapavessis


Follow Eric Stromgren on Twitter at @estromgren and on Facebook.

Friday night pregame notes and line charts: Bemidji State vs. Wisconsin

Some pregame notes and line charts for tonight’s game against Wisconsin:

Bemidji State forward Radoslav Illo (lower body injury) is not in the lineup tonight. He was injured in a game against Omaha back on Feb. 3 and has not played since in a span now reaching six games. BSU head coach Tom Serratore said this week that Illo looked good in Wednesday’s practice and was ’50-50′ for this weekend, so there’s a chance he might play tomorrow.

Wisconsin is starting Landon Peterson in goal tonight (.893 save percentage) in his first Friday night start since October. He’s in for starter Joel Rumpel, who was injured against Wisconsin last week with a gash above his knee that required 20 stitches.

Bemidji State Frozen Four goalie Matt Dalton will drop the ceremonial face-off prior to tonight’s game.

I talked with BSU/Sanford Center rink announcer Tom Kaplan tonight and he told me that he will be the rink announcer at the WCHA Final Five Semifinal Friday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center. It will be the biggest venue he’s announced in and said he’s looking forward to the experience.

Wisconsin
Forwards
Paape 18-Zengerle 9-Mersch 25
R. Little 20-Woods 21-Barnes 7
Labate 16-Meuer 12-S. Little 18
Navin 26-Dahl 14-Clark 17

Defensemen
Simonelli 26-Schultz 6
McCabe 19-Ramage 55
Springer 4-Faust 24

Goalies
Peterson 30
Rumpel 33

Bemidji State
Forwards
Kinne 9-McLeod 14-George 28
Orban 7-Walters 11-Boehm 4
MacQueen 17-Jubinville 12-Mattson 16
Tosunian 19-Fisher 13-Findlay 6

Defenseman
Hunt 29-Prapavessis 22
Areshenko 8-Windle 15
Carlson 5-Wacker 25

Goalies
Bakala 33
Walsh 30
Dugas 35

Follow Eric Stromgren on Twitter at @estromgren and on Facebook.