The 2010-11 Bemidji State men’s hockey season was historic and filled with firsts.
It was the first season in the WCHA and the first season in the Sanford Center. It ended with a postseason run and a trip to the program’s first WCHA Final Five.
Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore called the 2010-11 season a success for those reasons.
“It was a very exciting year and I think our team did a great job of coming together at the end of the year to win in Omaha,” Serratore said. “Playing in the WCHA Final Five was an invaluable experience and it was great that our fans were able to experience the atmosphere in St. Paul.”
The Beavers finished the year in 10th place out of 12 teams in the WCHA with a 15-18-5 overall record (8-15-5 WCHA). Bemidji State was five standings points out of playing at home in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, the equivalent of two wins and a tie.
The record reflects the resilient character of these Beavers. BSU started 3-8-1 in an initiation by fire, but turned the season around in December and went 12-10-4 the rest of the way.
“We knew what to expect,” Serratore said. “We played against teams in this league before and nothing caught us off guard. We sure knew what we were getting into and we knew our personnel well.”
BSU was competitive, shown by the 19 games decided by one goal or a tie and the 12 overtime games. Only the 2002-03 Beavers played in more overtime games (15) in the program’s Division I era.
BSU’s record was 3-4-5 in overtime this season.
“In this league there are a bunch of one-goal games year in and year out,” Serratore said. “Overtime is going to happen when there are tight games and one goal games, so I’m not surprised with the amount of overtime games.”
Another record of note for the Beavers this season was the 8-8-3 record against teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Of the losses, four came against NCAA No. 1 overall seed North Dakota. Of the wins, six came against fellow expansion team Nebraska-Omaha.
Bemidji State’s domination of UNO in the season series sparked a rivalry sure to continue next season and years to come.
The last two wins against Omaha came in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. BSU won the best-of-three series at the Qwest Center in two games.
The Beavers reached the WCHA Final Five and continued its postseason run with a 3-2 overtime victory over Minnesota-Duluth in the quarterfinals. The season ended with a 6-2 loss to Denver in the semifinals, a game BSU led at one point and entered the third period tied.
“It’s a tough league like it always is and we were able to reach the Final Five,” Serratore said. “I don’t think we could have got anything more out of our guys.”
Bemidji State’s offense was led by the top line of senior captain Matt Read, senior alternate captain Ian Lowe and sophomore Jordan George.
The trio played together for all but 13 games in the middle of the season and finished with 51 of BSU’s 89 goals and 99 of the team’s 234 points.
George was the Beavers leading scorer with 17 goals and 19 assists for 36 points, edging Read by one point.
Read finished with a team-high 22 goals. He ended his standout BSU career with programs Division I records for goals (65), assists (78), points (143) and games played (147). He signed with Philadelphia Flyers earlier this week to become the seventh player in BSU history to earn an NHL contract.
Junior goaltender Dan Bakala emerged as a defensive leader for the Beavers after the Thanksgiving holiday and was a key to the surge after the new year. Bakala was the MVP of the holiday Mariucci Classic, was the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week three times this season and was Inside College Hockey’s National Player of the Week twice.
Bakala’s 644 saves this season were third most in the WCHA and only 45 behind co-leaders John Faulkner from UNO and Kent Patterson from Minnesota.
BSU struggled to find scoring away from the top line in the first half of the year. In the second half of the season, the future of Beaver hockey emerged with goals at key moments.
Juniors Matt Carlson and Drew Fisher scored their first BSU goals in a victory over Ferris State, a win part of the Mariucci Classic title to start the New Year.
Freshman defenseman Kyle Brodie’s first goal was a game-winner over Alabama-Huntsville.
Junior Brad Hunt’s signature slap shot broke through at the end of the year. He scored in a February win at Mankato, scored a clutch late-game goal against Minnesota to give BSU a tie and scored BSU’s first goal against UMD at the Final Five.
Sophomore Aaron McLeod scored a tying goal to give the Beavers a tie at Michigan Tech that helped BSU gain the Winter Carnival Trophy.
Junior Jamie MacQueen found his most timely goals in the playoffs and gave BSU go-ahead goals in both victories against Omaha.
Then there was junior Shea Walters, who scored his first goal of the year in overtime against UMD at the Final Five to keep BSU’s season alive.
Of all the stats, goals and numbers perhaps the most impressive number is 62,011.
That is how many fans came to support the first season of BSU hockey at the Sanford Center. BSU ranked 17th among the 58 Division I programs in terms of average attendance and 21st in overall attendance.
The season in Photos
I took hundreds of hockey photos this season. Here are some of my favorites.