Projected lines for BSU Friday night:
And for St. Cloud via St. Cloud Times’ Mick Hatten:
Here’s my story from Friday’s Pioneer
After two straight home series, the Bemidji State men’s hockey team is looking forward to the first road series of the year this weekend at No. 20 St. Cloud State.
“We need a road trip,” Bemidji State men’s hockey coach Tom Serratore said. “We’ve been home for a month and it’s time to get on the road. Ideally you like to have your first or second weekend on the road. It’s been kind of a crazy schedule so far for the Beavers, but it’s a good time for a road trip.”
Game times are 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the National Hockey Center on the campus of St. Cloud State. Bemidji State is seeking its first win of the season (0-3-1 overall, 0-3-1 WCHA) and St. Cloud State (3-4-1 overall, 1-1 WCHA) is looking to win back-to-back games for the first time this season. SCSU split the last two weekends with Minnesota and Quinnipiac.
“I know they’re frustrated with their start right now,” Serratore said. “They wish they could get more consistency out of their team, but they’re a team that’s extremely dangerous.”
The Beavers face a nationally ranked opponent for the third straight series in St. Cloud State. After a season-opening sweep to then No. 2 North Dakota, the Beavers lost and tied in overtime games last weekend against current No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth.
The Beavers enter the series led by the top line of Ian Lowe, Jordan George and Matt Read. The trio has 10 points and five of the seven goals for the team this season.
George leads BSU with three goals and attributed the first line’s success so far to simplicity.
“Keeping it simple, getting pucks deep, playing Beaver hockey and going to work,” George said. “Once we can have them down there for 20-30 seconds we can make some plays.”
The Beavers are searching for scoring beyond the first line. Emil Billberg and Jamie MacQueen are the only Beavers outside the first line to score.
Drew LeBlanc leads the Huskies with eight assists and nine points on the season. Nick Jenson ranks second with seven points and Jared Festler leads the team in goals with three. All but four players on the Huskies roster have recorded a point this season.
“First of all, they’re experienced,” Serratore said of the Huskies. “They have nine seniors, they’re very good transitionally, they’ve got high-end skill and they’ve got one of the better goalies in the country in Mike Lee … again it’s the WCHA: there’s not a lot of flaws, there’s not a lot of holes.”
One area to watch this weekend for BSU is special teams.
Bemidji State’s penalty killing unit has played well in some situations, but has lacked consistency in the first four games. The Beavers 69 percent kill rate enters the weekend ranked last in the WCHA.
“That’s one area of our game right now that’s been a work in progress,” Serratore said. “We knew that going in. When you lose (Chris) McKelvie and (Tyler) Lehrke we knew there would be issues. We have to make sure we try rectify that little problem as quick as we can.”
Adding to the challenge this weekend will be the Olympic ice sheet.
“It’s going to be hard to play on their Olympic size ice I think, but we’re practicing it this week so I think we’ll be ready,” Bemidji State defenseman Jake Areshenko said.
BSU played on Olympic ice in two series last year against Northern Michigan and Minnesota. BSU went 2-1-1 in those games.
“It’s always concerning to me when we go on an Olympic ice sheet,” Serratore said. “As much as we played decent on Olympic ice over the last couple of years, it’s something that’s in the back of my mind and you’re a little concerned with. We’re a very aggressive team, we pressure the puck very hard and sometimes on Olympic ice you can take yourselves out of the play. So there’s a happy medium. The last thing you want to do is deviate from the way you play, but we have to make sure that we realize where we are at on the rink.”
The first win has been elusive so far this season, but Serratore is satisfied with the team’s effort in the first month of the first season in the WCHA.
“We have a bunch of world-class kids who work extremely hard,” Serratore said. “They’re very dedicated, very passionate hockey players and I think we’re getting better. The last three games I’ve been very impressed with how our guys have adapted. The first game was a tough game for a lot of different reasons. Game 2 we gave ourselves a chance to win, we just got beat by a better hockey team. And this past weekend I thought we played very, very well. I’d like to see us score a little more goals but I think scoring goals is going to be very difficult for us all year … I thought we did pretty good when you factor we didn’t give up a five-on-five goal all weekend.”
What I’m reading heading into the weekend
Mick Hatten, St. Cloud State hockey beat writer for the St. Cloud Times, had some midweek notes out of Husky hockey practice here. Huskies coach Bob Motzko says Matt Read is “one of the better players in the WCHA” and Brad Hunt is “one of the better offensive defensemen in the WCHA.” Mick also has some additional preseries comments from Serratore here.
First place in the WCHA is on the line this week in Grand Forks when North Dakota hosts Minnesota-Duluth. UND will be without Brad Malone, who was suspended for one game by the WCHA for his hit on Denver’s Jesse Martin last week. He will sit out Friday. Martin suffered three cracked vertebrae in his neck on the play and could have surgery Friday according to a Denver Post report. UND will have to do some lineup juggling for at least Friday night. UMD beat writer Kevin Pates has a look at the Bulldogs first month of the season here.
A big-time WCHA rivalry series will be renewed this weekend in Madison when Wisconsin hosts the Badgers. It’s been a strange week for the Gophers, which are currently on a three-game winning streak. Second liner Zach Budish injured his right knee in a moped accident and is considering season-ending surgery. As for Wisconsin, the Badgers appear to be experimenting with defensive pairings. College Hockey News’ Josh Maghill writes on the rivalry here.
The Colorado College-Denver University rivalry will be played in a home-and-home series this weekend. CC’s Jaden Schwartz is off to a hot start with seven goals this season to lead all rookies in the country: he was named the WCHA Preseason Player of the Year.
Nebraska-Omaha will host Mankato this weekend in the battle of the Mavericks. It’s the start of a six straight road games for Mankato, which will play at Denver next week and then travel to UMass-Lowell two weeks later. Omaha is coming off a bye week to host its first WCHA series. It’s a milestone weekend for the Omaha program according to Omaha World-Herald writer Chad Purcell. Interesting fact for this series: Former Chicago Bear Dick Butkus will drop the ceremonial opening faceoff Friday night.
Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage are off this week.
USCHO’s Tyler Buckentine previews this weekend in the WCHA.
BSU women’s hockey hosts defending national champion UMD
The Bemidji State women’s hockey team will host the defending national champion this weekend at the Bemidji Regional Event Center.
The Beavers will face current No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth Friday at 7:07 p.m. and Saturday at 6:07 p.m.
BSU is looking for its third straight victory and head coach Steve Sertich knows the Bulldogs present a tough challenge.
“It’s always hard to match up with them, they have three Olympians on one line,” Sertich said. “It’s hard to match up with them player to player so we’re going to need to have good goaltending and we’re going to need to play well defensively. We can’t get beat one-on-one and we can’t allow back-door plays.”
The Bulldogs (7-1-0 overall, 5-1-0 WCHA) enter the weekend on a six-game winning streak and have an even more impressive streak against the Beavers (4-4 overall, 2-2 WCHA). UMD is 47-0-2 all-time against BSU.
Despite that daunting record, there is hope BSU can break the streak in the 50th meeting between the two teams.
Last year Bemidji State took its first WCHA point from UMD last December with a tie and shootout victory in Duluth.
Another reason for hope is BSU’s 5-3 victory over then No. 1 ranked Mercyhurst back on Oct. 16. That victory showed BSU can be competitive with the best in the country. BSU has outscored opponents 12-5 in its three-game winning streak.
“I think we’re moving the puck very well and getting the puck up the ice,” Sertich said. “We’re working hard to get open, we’re taking over the offensive zone and we’re getting a lot of attempts on net.”
Leading the way for the Beavers in the winning streak is Erin Cody, who has scored seven goals in that span.
Cody, a senior forward, was named the WCHA’s offensive player of the week for scoring five goals in last weekend’s sweep of St. Cloud State. She ranks sixth in WCHA scoring with 14 points.
Another area Sertich has been pleased with is the power play performance. BSU’s power play is running at 13 percent for the season and scored three power play goals last weekend.
“We were effective last weekend,” Sertich said. “That first group we have is really effective and reading the pressure. Even though we were not scoring early on in the season, I was not unhappy with that. Now we just have to get some traffic in front of the goaltenders.”
If the Beavers are to break the long losing streak against the Bulldogs this weekend, scoring must come from beyond the top line where Cody, Sadie Lundquist and Emily Erickson have combined for 15 of the Beavers 18 goals this season.
Bemidji State’s scoring offense ranks sixth out of eight teams in the WCHA with 18 total goals scored this season. Minnesota-Duluth’s offense is second to Wisconsin with 36 goals scored.