Lines Leading off
BSU’s projected lines Friday vs. Anchorage
Anchorage’s lines based on last game (vs. Mankato)
The Bemidji State men’s hockey team will take on a non-nationally ranked opponent for the first time this season against Alaska-Anchorage this weekend.
That does not mean the Beavers are expecting a pair of easy games at the Bemidji Regional Event Center.
“You better not change mentally because this is the WCHA,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. “You respect your opponents. We have a lot of respect for Anchorage. We have a lot of respect for this league. If you don’t have respect, then you know what? You’re going to get kicked in the teeth.”
The Beavers will take on the Seawolves Friday at 7:37 p.m. and Saturday at 7:07 p.m. Tickets are available for the series and military veterans including current service members will receive a $5 ticket discount in honor of Veterans Day.
The winner of this weekend’s series will avoid becoming the last place team in the WCHA.
The Beavers (1-4-1 overall, 1-4-1 WCHA) are coming off a split at St. Cloud State in a series where the Beavers lost Friday 6-3 and won Saturday 3-2 in overtime. Jordan George, who was named the WCHA Co-Offensive Player of the Week, factored in every goal last weekend with a goal and five assists. He leads the Beavers in scoring this season with four goals and nine points.
“He’s a year older, a year more mature,” Serratore said. “He’s playing on a line that has very good chemistry … he’s got a boatload of talent. He had it last year. You don’t get 30 points as a freshman unless you are a great player. Really, that is what is expected of him.”
The Seawolves (1-5-2 overall, 0-3-1 WCHA) enter the series after a week off and have not won since Oct. 9. Anchorage is 0-5-1 in that stretch where all losses have been decided by one goal.
“They’re going to be a team that’s going to be very, very physical,” Serratore said. “They’ve got great size, they forecheck extremely hard, they pay attention to detail, they’re extremely well-coached and they are going to play defensive.”
Dave Shyiak’s Seawolves are a younger team with 10 freshmen on the 28-team roster including goalies Robby Gunderson and Chris Kamal. UAA’s balanced scoring attack is led by Tommy Grant and Sean Wiles. The seniors each have three goals on the season.
There are a few areas Bemidji State will be looking to improve on this weekend: penalty killing and scoring beyond the top line.
The Beavers killed all eight penalties in the victory at St. Cloud State in one of the few bright spots for the penalty killing unit this year. BSU’s league-worst penalty kill is running at 73.7 percent.
“I want to stabilize our penalty killing where we can get some consistency with our penalty killers and not get so nervous when you see a penalty being called on us,” Serratore said. “When I see right now a penalty being called on us I’d be lying to say that it’s not in the back of my mind.”
The good news for the penalty-killing unit is Anchorage’s power play. It ranks last in the WCHA and is running at 10.5 percent with just four power-play goals this year. Anchorage’s penalty kill ranks 11th at 74.2 percent.
As for scoring, Bemidji State is struggling to produce points beyond the George-Matt Read-Ian Lowe line. Those three have combined to score 10 of Bemidji State’s 13 goals this season and 22 of the 36 points on the team. The only other goals are from Emil Billberg (2) and Jamie MacQueen (1).
“You always want to have secondary scoring, even have third and fourth lines chip in here and there,” BSU junior Darcy Findlay said. “If you don’t get the bounce, you don’t get the bounce. We’ve just got to battle through it and work hard during the week. Eventually it’s going to come and when it does, watch out.”
The Beavers have experimented with different line combinations this year and the trend could continue this weekend with second-liner Ryan Cramer having a “50-50 chance” of playing according to Serratore. The junior from International Falls did not play last Saturday and is dealing with a lingering abdominal strain suffered during the series against Minnesota-Duluth.
At the goalie position, the Beavers have an open competition at this point in the season with junior Dan Bakala and sophomore Mathieu Dugas.
Bakala, who started the first two losses of the season against North Dakota and in the win at St. Cloud State, will start Friday against the Seawolves.
“I’m always one day at a time, one night at a time,” Serratore said. “I’ll never get premature and say both nights. You say those things and you put your foot in your mouth as a coach …We’ve always had competition here if you look back with (Matt) Dalton and (Matt) Climie, Climie and (Layne) Sedevie. So we’ve always had pretty good competition and hopefully you’ll always have competition. You need that. That makes both guys better goaltenders.”
Video interviews with Darcy Findlay and Sam Rendle
I wrote a feature story on Rendle, a Grand Rapids native, in Thursday’s Pioneer. You can read it here.
What I’m reading this week
It’s a big weekend once again in the WCHA with some pretty intriguing matchups.
Tops on that list for me is No. 10 North Dakota at No. 13 Wisconsin. It’s the start of tough six-game homestand writes Wisconsin beat writer Andy Baggot. The Badgers will face No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth next week, followed by No. 8 Michigan and No. 16 Michigan State in that stretch.
A close second on that list for me is No. 6 Nebraska-Omaha’s road trip to St. Cloud State. There’s no doubt that Nebraska-Omaha is the surprise team of the league so far this season and is in second place with eight points. Omaha has connections to SCSU with assistant coach Mike Hastings and player Rich Purslow. Read Chad Purcell’s feature story on Omaha sophomore defenseman Bryce Aneloski here. SCSU beat writer Mick Hatten’s preview of the series is here along with a feature on Husky captain Aaron Marvin.
No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth is home at the DECC this week to host Michigan Tech. Did you know the Bulldogs have played in five overtime games this season? That’s the most in Division I hockey so far writes UMD beat writer Kevin Pates (He’s also now on twitter). BSU fans remember two of those overtime games were played at the BREC.
Colorado College is in non-conference action after last week’s split with Minnesota, which has the week off. The Tigers will stay in Colorado Springs to play at Air Force on Friday and will host No. 3 Yale on Saturday. CC beat writer Joe Paisley writes that both CC and Air Force are looking for scoring depth. The Tigers are also dealing with injuries as sophomores Scott Winkler (Dallas Stars draft pick) and Michael Bovin will be out 6-8 weeks.
Denver, Bemidji State’s opponent next week, remains at home this week to host Minnesota State, Mankato. It looks as though there’s a goaltending competition in Denver and Sam Brittain will get the start Friday, and maybe Saturday, according to DU beat writer Mike Chambers. If you’re looking for a great feel-good story, DU’s Jesse Martin looks to be on the path to recovery after successful surgery to repair broken vertebra in his neck earlier this week. Mankato beat writer Shane Frederick writes the Mavericks will welcome back team captain Rylan Galiardi, who missed the last two weeks to a lower body injury.
BSU women look to continue home success vs. No. 8 North Dakota
The Bemidji State women’s hockey team hosts a nationally-ranked team for the second straight weekend and the Beavers are hoping a good trend can continue at the Bemidji Regional Event Center.
BSU will face No. 8 North Dakota Friday and Saturday at 2:07 p.m. Each time the Beavers have faced a nationally ranked squad this year at home, BSU has emerged with a win in the series.
“I think we’re playing well as a team,” Bemidji State goalie Zuzana Tomcikova said. “We’re finally getting more shots on net and that’s really helping too. When you put lots of shots on net, some are going to get through.”
The Beavers have earned wins against then No. 1 Mercyhurst and No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth this season at the BREC. The 1-0 defeat of UMD last Friday was the first win in program history over the Bulldogs.
“We’ve played really well against some of the top-ranked teams,” Bemidji State head coach Steve Sertich said. “Last week showed we can skate with Duluth. We hoped to get points last Saturday, but the good news is we can skate with these high level teams and that helps build confidence for the team.”
The success against ranked teams has led the Beavers to a 4-2 record at the BREC. The Beavers are 5-5 overall (3-3 WCHA) and are tied for fourth in the league standings with nine points. North Dakota is 6-3-1 overall (5-2-1 WCHA) and third in the standings with 16 points.
With only one other game on the WCHA schedule this weekend, the BSU-UND series is an opportunity for BSU to separate in the standings.
“We need to play as we’ve done so far so hopefully we can get some points this series,” Tomcikova said. “They’re (North Dakota) a good team and we need to play well in the defensive zone. They have skilled forwards so we need to play well in our systems to have a good weekend.”
For North Dakota, the series is a chance to pass Minnesota-Duluth (18 points) for second place with a win or pass Wisconsin (21 points) and take over first place with a sweep.
“(BSU is) solid, well coached, do a great job getting great leadership and point production from their seniors,” North Dakota coach Brian Idalski said. “Erin Cody we have to pay attention to and can’t let her beat us … They’re not easy to play against and it’s going to be a tough weekend for us.”
Cody, a senior, has emerged as one of the top players in the WCHA this season and is tied for fifth in league scoring with eight goals and eight assists.
Making it tougher for the Fighting Sioux will be the absence of star Olympic twins Jocelyne Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux-Kolls, who are representing the United States at the Four Nations Cup this week. The two have combined for 10 goals and nine assists this season.
“That’s great, but they have some outstanding players even without them,” Sertich said. “They’re going to want to show they have a strong supporting cast and can still score.”