Bemidji State's Ian Lowe and Minnesota captain Tony Lucia go after a puck in a game last season at Mariucci Arena. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren.
The Bemidji State men’s hockey team will face the University of Minnesota this weekend for the first time in Bemidji in 10 years.
The series will be the first as WCHA foes and though the Beavers know the city is anticipating the regular season finale at the Sanford Center, the BSU players are taking a working man’s approach to the weekend.
“There will be a lot of buzz in the building and from our standpoint I think it’s important for us as a hockey team to keep things business as usual,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. “There’s no question the University of Minnesota resonates with our fans. There are a lot of people in town who were Gopher fans before they were Beaver fans and I think this weekend is exciting for them.”
Game times for the series are Friday 7:37 p.m. and Saturday 7:07 p.m. There are playoff implications in the series for both teams.
The Beavers (12-16-4 overall, 8-14-4-2 WCHA) enter the weekend tied for 10th place with Minnesota State University, Mankato and can finish as high as ninth by the end of the weekend. No. 19 ranked Minnesota (15-12-5 overall, 12-10-4 WCHA) stands fourth in the standings and needs at least a tie this weekend to lock up home ice advantage for the first round of the WCHA playoffs. A sweep would help bolster Minnesota’s case for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a weekend where we’re in dire need for a win and Minnesota is too,” Serratore said.
Only league-leading North Dakota and last-place Michigan Tech are locked in for a series in the playoffs next week. The rest of the matchups are too close to call with teams packed in groups at the top and bottom of the standings.
The Beavers are coming off 5-2 and 5-1 losses at No. 1 ranked North Dakota last weekend in a sweep that ended a five-game unbeaten streak for BSU.
“I don’t think you can dwell on that too long,” Bemidji State senior Ian Lowe said. “I think it’s important that we move forward and try to get back on track this week.”
The Beavers and Gophers have met eight times in BSU’s Division I era. Minnesota beat the Beavers 9-3 in the first meeting in Bemidji back in 2000-01 when Matt DeMarchi, Grant Potulny, Jordan Leopold and Troy Riddle played for the Gophers.
The Gophers own the all-time series with a 7-1 record. Bemidji State earned its first win over Minnesota last season with a 6-2 win at Mariucci Arena behind a pair of goals from Jamie MacQueen.
This season’s Gophers have a roster that features 19 NHL draft picks. Minnesota comes to Bemidji on a hot streak and are unbeaten in five games. The Gophers have four wins in that stretch.
“They’re extremely deep, they’ve got great team speed and they’re playing as good as anybody in the WCHA right now,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. “I know they’re feeling pretty good about themselves and we have our work cut out.”
Jacob Cepis has 12 goals and 29 points this season to lead the Gophers in scoring. Captain Jay Bariball, out since Feb. 5 with a leg injury, is expected to return this weekend. He was the team leader in goals (12) and points (23) when he was knocked out of a 6-4 loss to Minnesota-Duluth.
There is a Serratore family connection in this weekend’s series. Minnesota freshman Tom Serratore is the nephew of the Bemidji State coach and the son of Air Force coach Frank Serratore.
“It’s always exciting growing up and seeing him (Tom) coach there and my dad coach at Air Force,” Minnesota’s Serratore said. “It’s a dream come true to come up there and play against them.”
Bemidji State will welcome back second line defenseman Sam Rendle back this weekend. The freshman has missed the last three games with an upper body injury suffered in the Feb. 18th tie against Colorado College.
“He’s practicing and looking good out there so he’s ready to go,” Seratore said.
Rendle’s return should help boost Bemidji State’s defense, which has given up five goals in three of the last four games. Serratore did not fault Bemidji State goalie Dan Bakala’s performance in those games and he will start in net Friday.
This weekend marks the final home games for Bemidji State seniors Matt Read, Ian Lowe, Emil Billberg, Ryan Adams and Ryan Cramer. Read, Lowe and sophomore Jordan George have accounted for 43 of Bemidji State’s 72 goals this season and 86 of the team’s 193 points.
Read scored his 60th career goal last week against UND, a milestone mark for BSU’s all-time scoring leader. Only 20 players in the history of the program have 60 or more goals.
The games this weekend are expected to sell out. Limited seats remain for Friday’s game and no seats were available for Saturday’s game as of Thursday night on Ticketmaster.com.
Lowe is looking forward to playing in his final home games at Bemidji State against a high-profile opponent in front of an energized crowd. The Bemidji State Department of Athletics is encouraging fans to wear white to the game as part of a ‘Whiteout Weekend.’
“Being from Canada I don’t know too many things about the Gophers,” Lowe said. “But everyone here seems to know about the rivalries and lots of people around here wear Gophers gear. I think it’s going to be a rivalry this weekend. People always want to come watch the Gophers so I think it’s going to be an interesting weekend.”
If you visit the homepage at www.bsubeavers.com, you will see the BSU Department of Athletics is encouraging all fans to wear white to the games as part of a ‘Whiteout Weekend.’
Both Lakeland Public Television and Fox Sports North will carry the games live this weekend.
The Lakeland Public Television broadcast can be seen locally on channel 9 and across the state on Twin Cities Public Television Channel 2.
The Fox Sports North broadcast will be available on channel 56 for Paul Bunyan Television costumers, channel 27 for those with MidContinent Communications service, channel 668 to DirecTV subscribers and channel 436.
The FSN broadcast aired on Fox College Sports Pacific will be available to both Midcontinent and Paul Bunyan sports package subscribers on Midco channel 406 and channel 74 to those the have PBTV service and to DirecTV customers on channel 617 both nights.
The radio broadcast can be heard on on the Beaver Radio Network.
What I’m reading this week
If you missed it earlier this week, here’s my feature story on Minnesota transfer student and current Bemidji State centerman Drew Fisher.
Minnesota broadcaster Glen Sonmor is hanging up the microphone early and won’t be in the booth this weekend. Here’s some notes from last weekend’s Gopher series against Michigan Tech where Lucia said he was not happy with penalties after the whistle. Gopher beat writer Roman Augustoviz is picking a Gopher win and tie this weekend with the Beavers, and is projecting the Beavers to play at Denver in the first round.
Nebraska-Omaha plays at Minnesota-Duluth this weekend in a series that will likely have impact on where the Beavers play in the first round of the playoffs. The two teams are separated by one point in the standings and as it stands right now, the Beavers would travel to Omaha next week for the best-of-three playoff series. The UNO-UMD series is expected to showcase speed, writes UMD beat writer Kevin Pates. The Mavericks power play is looking for a boost, writes UNO beat writer Chad Purcell.
St. Cloud State heads to Denver on a roll this weekend where the Pioneers are expected to have captain Kyle Ostrow back after missing the last six games. Nic Dowd may or may not play this weekend for St. Cloud State. This series could also play a role in where Bemidji State plays in the playoffs.
Michigan Tech is in for a tough two weeks against North Dakota. The two teams end the regular season this weekend in Houghton and will open the playoffs in Grand Forks next week. Here’s some midweek UND notes from Sioux beat writer Brad E. Schlossman.
Colorado College travels to Wisconsin this week. Badger blogger Chuck Schwartz previews the series here. Here’s Joe Paisley’s three things to watch for in the series. The Badgers are moving Patrick Johnson around in the lineup to provide more scoring opportunities.
Here’s the USCHO.com look at the weekend with a spotlight on the Wisconsin-Colorado College series.
Sioux 7 previews the WCHA weekend matchups here at Goon’s World.
Ryan S. Clark in Fargo is working on a women in hockey series and I think it’s a great idea. Read his Q and A here with Fiona Quick, who has an interesting background in the game that started with the Minnesota Moose.
In junior hockey news, it was reported this week that the Owatonna Express (NAHL) franchise was sold and will be relocated to Texas next season. It’s not the first time the Express were sold. Two seasons ago the original owners moved the original Owatonna franchise to a Detroit suburb. Have to say I’m disappointed by this news because this was my first break in hockey and the first team I covered as a professional journalist. There’s also good people in Owatonna who support the game with volunteer hours. Sad to see the Express go.
Out of the completely useless news department, below is a photo of a Libyan rebel sporting a North Dakota Fighting Sioux sweatshirt this week. See the video link here.