Michigan Tech is coming off a four-win season and is the first unranked opponent for the Bemidji State men’s hockey team this season.
But the Huskies are no pushover this season and come to the Sanford Center this weekend undefeated at 4-0 under new head coach Mel Pearson following back-to-back overtime wins against Wisconsin.
“I think Michigan Tech is a very good team and very underrated,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. “There’s new energy with the new coaching staff and it has really elevated their play. It’s not surprising to the coaches of the WCHA. They have a lot of talent up front.”
The weekend series (Friday 7:37 p.m. and Saturday 7:07 p.m.) is a rematch of last February’s Winter Carnival series in Houghton where the Beavers tied the Huskies 2-2 and won 1-0 as part of Tech’s historic 26-game winless streak.
The Beavers (1-3, 0-2 WCHA) were swept by then No. 7 Colorado College last week in Colorado Springs following a season-opening road split against then No. 2 Miami two weeks ago.
The Beavers were competitive against Colorado College but could not hold a 4-3 lead going into the third period Saturday night and lost 6-4.
“The cream rose to the top there with Jaden Schwartz,” Serratore said. “I’m not going to say he’s the top player in the country but he’s one of the top three or four. He just took over and was a threat every time he was on the ice…We tried and played well but at the end of the day, the line with Jaden and his brother (Rylan) were the difference in that game.”
The Bemidji State power play had a breakout game Saturday with three goals from Shea Walters, Radoslav Illo and Ben Kinne.
Illo, an Anaheim Ducks draft pick, assisted on the Walters and Kinne goals.
“That was the first time we got a chance to play on the power play for more than a minute or two and it worked out pretty well,” Illo said. “Hopefully it works out well this weekend.”
The BSU power play percentage stands at 33.3 percent (4-for-12) to rank second in the country behind Minnesota’s 39.1 percent success rate. Serratore was pleased with the execution last week but does not consider the power play group a finished product this early in the season.
“Special teams are always going to be a roller coaster all year,” he said. “I’ve been in college hockey long enough to know you don’t get too excited when things are going well and don’t get too frustrated when things aren’t going well because it’s the power play. It’s going to be hit and miss. NHL or college hockey – it doesn’t matter.”
The series against Michigan Tech (2-0 WCHA) marks the opening of the second season in the Sanford Center for the Beavers. BSU had a rough start last year in the new building and did not win the first home game until the middle of November.
The Beavers started to feel more at home in the middle of the season and closed out the first year with a 5-8-3 home record.
The Beavers want to build on that second half at the Sanford Center and make the arena a tough place for opponents like the John Glas Fieldhouse.
“It’s hard to have a pulse on how hard it is for the opposition but we sure played well at the end of the year last year,” Serratore said. “When you are playing well and confident it hopefully compounds the frustration of opposing teams coming into this building. That’s what you want to have happen. You want them to be frustrated and not looking forward to coming to Bemidji.”
Serratore and senior forward Drew Fisher both talked about playing with a physical edge in home games to energize the fans.
“I think we just have to keep playing physical and that’s the biggest thing,” Fisher said. “Our fans love to see big hits and if we can give it to them we’ll have a pretty good atmosphere.”
Bemidji State’s forward line combinations are still a work in progress as the coaching staff works to find the right chemistry between players.
Senior fourth line forward Darcy Findlay will not play this weekend and has not played since the 3-2 loss to Miami on Oct. 8 with what is described as an upper body injury.
Findlay has been able to participate in portions of practices and he is hoping to return next weekend at Lake Superior State. He will be evaluated further next week before a determination is made. Serratore described his recovery so far as ‘quick progress.’
BSU women return home confident from road trip
The Bemidji State women’s hockey team finished its roughly 5,000 mile, two-week road trip last weekend with a sweep at the University of Maine.
The Beavers return home this weekend on a roll to face St. Cloud State at the Sanford Center. Game times are 2:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
“I think anytime you win two games on the road – we found ways to win and we were creative – that helps the confidence of the team,” Bemidji State head coach Steve Sertich said. “We know things are a little different in our league but it’s a positive way to go into this weekend.”
The Beavers (3-1-2, 0-1-1-1 WCHA) rebounded from a one-point weekend at Ohio State two weeks ago to defeat Maine 3-2 in overtime and 7-0 for the sweep. The sweep cost the previously undefeated Black Bears all of its votes in the national poll. BSU received three votes in the most recent poll.
“They were a tough team and I liked that team actually,” Sertich said. “They played a lot like us. They didn’t have any great stars but they played hard and had a good system. We lucked out Friday night because they outplayed us most of the game.”
BSU entered the season looking to find some new players to contribute offense and have found ways to score with a more balanced approach through the first six games. Defenseman Erika Wheelhouse is leading that charge with two goals and six assists for a team-high eight points.
“She’s always been one of our most consistent players and she plays so hard all of the time,” Sertich said. “It’s fun to see her get some of the offensive rewards for all of the work she does. A lot of it has to with her playing on the No. 1 power play and she is getting good looks at the net.”
Emily Erickson leads the team with five goals.
Montana Vichorek, Sadie Lundquist, Tess Dusik and Rachael Kelly each have two goals.
BSU faces a St. Cloud State (1-5-0, 0-3-0 WCHA) team on a four-game losing streak.
“They’re still pretty young and kids got some experience last year,” Sertich said. “They’re a lot like we were two years ago where they’re very close. They’re going to be dangerous. They have some quality players on their front end.”
News and notes from around the WCHA
Here’s what I’m reading this week from the media around the league.
Michigan Tech at Bemidji State (Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07)
TV: Lakeland Public Television and regionally in Minnesota. Also available in areas of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin via the Minnesota Channel where Minnesota Public Television stations are received. More information here.
Radio: Locally on The Mix 103.7 FM and online at the Beaver Radio Network. The BSU women’s hockey games this weekend are on 92.1 FM The River and the Beaver Radio Network.
Twitter: I’ll provide updates on my Twitter account at the start of the second period @estromgren.
The series marks the start of the second year where the BSU hockey programs and others at the facility are feeling more at home. Here’s my story from Thursday’s newspaper.
The Beavers are spreading the scoring out this season as 10 different players have a goal. North Dakota beat writer Brad E. Schlossman noted this stat: it took the Beavers until New Year’s Eve – the win over Ferris State at the Mariucci Classic – to get a goal from a 10th player last season.
Michigan Tech freshman defensemen Riley Sweeney has three assists, tied for most on the Huskies. He committed to the program in July. From Stephen Anderson, Houghton Mining Gazette.
How do the Huskies look this season? Here’s a highlight video from last Friday’s overtime win over Wisconsin via the Tech Hockey Guide.
North Dakota at Wisconsin (Friday and Saturday, 7:07)
Ever heard of Beer Grandma?
Neither have I until this week. There’s been a bit of controversy about her this week in Grand Forks. Beth Delano, 85, was caught on camera drinking a beer at a UND game a few years ago and put on the center ice scoreboard screen to the enjoyment of the Ralph Engelstad Arena crowd.
On Monday, the Grand Forks Herald reported UND President Robert Kelley requested Delano not be displayed on the screen because it feeds UND’s reputation as a drinking school.
On Tuesday, the Herald reported the REA staff were never issued a firm “directive” not to show Delano on the scoreboard.
Beer Grandma-gate caused enough of a stir to prompt this Herald editorial: Bring back the Beer Grandma.
On to the series –
This weekend is the first road trip of the season for the Sioux in a battle of young teams. From Brad. E. Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald.
It has been a strange week of practice this week in Madison as sophomore center Jefferson Dahl suffered a shoulder injury during a no-contact drill and assistant coach Bill Butters was hit in the head by a puck. Butters needed 10 stitches to sew up the wound and Dahl’s may be able to play. From Andy Baggot, Wisconsin State Journal.
This series is a classic WCHA rivalry. UND fans enjoyed circulating this video – dubbed the ‘Water Bottle Incident’ from 1982 – in social media circles this week.
From a different era in college hockey:
Alaska-Anchorage at Nebraska-Omaha (Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07)
The young Mavericks have one win in four games. There’s no pressing the panic button yet in Omaha as the Mavs work to improve on the mental aspect of the game. From Chad Purcell, Omaha World-Herald.
The unbeaten Seawolves are winning with a balanced effort scoring as 17 of the 20 players who have played in games this season have a point. From Doyle Woody, Anchorage Daily News.
MSU, Mankato at Denver (Friday 8:37, Saturday 8:07)
The injury bug has striked in Mankato where Michael Dorr is the latest Maverick to be sidelined. The senior forward and co-captain will not play this weekend with an upper body injury suffered during apregame skate last Saturday. Tyler Elbrecht, Eriah Hayes, Makes Gaede, Danny Heath and J.P. Burkemper are also out for the Mavs with various injuries. From Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press.
Former Denver player Jesse Martin’s incredible recovery from a near fatal neck injury suffered last year during a game against North Dakota is profiled in the Denver Post by writers Mike Chambers and Terry Frei. The series is compelling: Part I- The hit and its immediate aftermath, Part II- First steps on the long road back, Part III- Martin returns to ice.
Minnesota-Duluth at Providence (Friday and Saturday, 6:07)
The Bulldogs have allowed 15 goals in three straight losses. Coach Scott Sandelin is putting the practice focus on defense, special teams and goaltending this week. From Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune.
Vermont at Minnesota (Friday 6:07, Sunday 1:07)
Gophers goalie Kent Patterson is expected to start both games this weekend and as long as he wants moving forward according to coach Don Lucia. From Roman Augustoviz, Star Tribune.
Lucia’s contract extension reported last week is now official and will keep him with the Gophers through 2014-15. Here’s a video of Don talking about the extension via Gophersports.com
New Hampshire at St. Cloud State (Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07)
Senior center Jordy Christian is back in the lineup for the Huskies. Coach Bob Motzko is disappointed with the amount of mistakes the Huskies are making and a lack of production on the power play. From Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times.
Other hockey news
I didn’t realize this last weekend, but this tweet from Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley made me smile a little bit.
Speaking of the CHA- The Alabama-Huntsville student government association voiced its support of the men’s hockey program this week and voted to keep the Chargers hockey program. The ultimate decision on the fate of the program is up to University of Alabama System cancellor Malcolm Mortera. The school is projected to lose $1.5 million annually by keeping Charger hockey alive. A grassroots effort has generated $500,000 at last report and a decision from Mortera is expected soon. From Paul Gattis, The Huntsville Times.
USCHO.com writers Brian Halverson and Tyler Buckentine make their picks for the weekend and both are predicting a BSU sweep.
College Hockey News WCHA Power Rankings- Beimdji State stays at No. 9. From Dan Myers.
NHL’s chance to win new fans during the NBA Lockout. From Bill Simmons, Grantland.
Millsy’s Former and Future Beavers Update
Millsy over at The Beaver Pond tracks the statistics of former Bemidji State players and prospects in the junior leagues. Here is the latest update with stats current as of Oct. 18.
-Andrew Murray-San Jose Sharks (NHL) 4 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 2 PIM
-Matt Read-Philadelphia (NHL) 4 GP, 1G-1A-2 Pts., 2 PIM
-Matt Francis-Nottingham Panthers (English ELITE League) 15 GP, 4G-8A-12 Pts., 12 PIM
-Brendan Cook-Sonderjyske (Denmark) 11 GP, 5G-2A-7 Pts, 14 PIM
-Tyler Scofield-Klagenfurter AC (Austria) 11 GP, 8G-5A-13 Pts, 2 PIM
-Anssi Tieranta-LeKi (Finland2) 10 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts, 4 PIM
-Mikka Lindholm-HKC (Finland3) 7 GP, 6G-6A-12 Pts., 16 PIM
-Matt Dalton-Vityaz Chekhov (KHL) 10 GP, 1W-7L-2SOL, 90.4 Save %, 3.55 GAA, 2 PIM
-Emil Billberg-Sodertalje (Allsvenskan) 9 GP, 1G-0A-1 Pts., 4 PIM
-Ryan Huddy-Valpelice (Italy) 7 GP, 6G-6A-12 Pts., 2 PIM
-Rob Sirianni-Valpelice (Italy) 7 GP, 7G-6A-13 Pts., 6 PIM
-Chris McKelvie-Connecticut Whale (AHL) 4 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 2 PIM
-Jamie Mattie-HC Innsbruck (Austria2) 1 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 0 PIM
-Matt Climie-Chicago (AHL) 1 GP, 0W-1L-OSOL, 88.9 Save %, 4.02 GAA, 0 PIM
-Ian Lowe-Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) 2 GP, 1G-1A-2 Pts., 0 PIM
-Matt Pope-South Carolina (ECHL) 2 GP, 1G-2A-3 Pts., 2 PIM
-Niko Suoraniemi-Eindhoven Kemphanen (Netherlands) 6 GP, 2G-3A-5 Pts., 2 PIM
-Daryl Bat-Tyringe SoSS (Sweden Division 2) 2 GP, 3G-0A-3 Pts., 0 PIM
-Brady Riesgraf-Fargo Force (USHL) 1 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 0 PIM
-Brendan Harms-Portage Terriers (MJHL) 8 GP, 5G-5A-10 Pts., 10 PIM
-Bob Kinne-Lincoln Stars (USHL) 3 GP, 1G-0A-1 Pts., 0 PIM
-Corey Petrash-Winnipeg Saints (MJHL) 13 GP, 2G-6A-8 Pts., 19 PIM
-Brad Robbins-Sioux City (USHL) 3 GP, 1G-0A-1 Pts., 2 PIM
-Graeme McCormack-Namaimo Clippers (BCHL) 9 GP, 2G-10A-12 Pts., 10 PIM