The Bemidji State men’s hockey team remains a work in progress heading into its third series against a nationally ranked opponent to start the first month of the season.
BSU faces No. 15 Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena on Friday and Saturday in a pair of 7:07 p.m. games as a team where scoring is distributed throughout the roster and the goalie position is in a state of flux.
“It’s an interesting team because we don’t have a high-end player,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. “I think our balance is pretty good. I like our defensive corps. But there’s a lot of unknowns and it’s hard to put a finger on a lot of different things right now.”
The Beavers (3-3, 2-2 WCHA) started the season with back-to-back road series against ranked Miami and Colorado College before returning home to sweep previously undefeated Michigan Tech last weekend at the Sanford Center.
“I think we know how to play and how we want to play,” Serratore said. “The biggest thing is we got a couple of wins and I think we needed a couple of wins at this time of the year. It has been a very difficult schedule.”
Duluth (2-3-1, 0-2 WCHA) returns and Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player J.T. Brown from last year’s team along with scorers Travis Oleksuk, Jack Connolly, Mike Seidel and goalie Kenny Reiter.
UMD’s two WCHA losses came against Minnesota two weeks ago at Amsoil Arena when the offense put 100 combined shots on Gopher goalie Kent Patterson. Last week the Bulldogs defeated Providence 5-2 and tied 2-2 on the road.
“Take a look at their power play and watch their power play – it’s scary,” Serratore said. “They’ve got a lot of octane left, they’ve got very good depth and those kids know how to win.”
The Beavers eliminated the Bulldogs from the WCHA Final Five last season with a 3-2 overtime victory in UMD’s last loss of the season.
That quarterfinal game was the latest chapter in what has turned into a competitive series between the two programs, which have played every year since BSU moved to Division I in 1999-00. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 19-10-1 but the Beavers are 8-4-1 in the last 13 games.
“When playing Duluth it’s always a good series regardless of whether they’re national champions or not – the fact that they are national champions will make it even better,” said BSU senior Shea Walters, who scored the overtime game-winner against UMD at the Final Five for his only goal last year.
The chief concern for the Beavers at the start of this season was to find a way to replace the scoring punch generated by graduated forwards Matt Read and Ian Lowe.
Scoring has been shouldered by the team through the first six games as 12 players on the roster have at least one goal. Shea Walters, Ben Kinne and Jordan George share the team lead with three goals each.
The power play is off to a hot start and are 7-for-25 (28 percent) to rank fourth in the nation.
“We knew coming into this year we were going to have to get production from everyone and everyone is chipping in right now,” Walters said.
Walters credits his success so far to a hard-nosed and physical approach in front of the net, something he said he did not do as much in past seasons.
The scoring distribution can be attributed in part to more ice time for all four forward lines. Read, Lowe and George played more minutes per game last season on the top line than any other line. With Lowe and Read out of special teams, more opportunities exist for other players this season.
The forward lines are not locked into place at this point and there are minor changes nightly to the lineup.
“From our standpoint we’re trying to figure out who should be playing in certain situations and how much they should be playing in different situations,” Serratore said.
BSU fourth-line forward Darcy Findlay has missed the last four games with an upper body injury and his return is uncertain this weekend.
One area of the team dealing with uncertainty is at goalie where there is a competition between senior Dan Bakala, junior Mathieu Dugas and freshman Andrew Walsh.
Bakala, BSU’s starter for most of of last season, was taken out of last Friday’s game after allowing three goals on the first four shots and was replaced by Walsh. The freshman started in Saturday’s win and had 48 saves in the sweep.
Serratore said he has not decided who will start against UMD.
“They’ve got to play the same way in practice whether they’re playing or not playing,” Serratore said. “They have to have the same approach, they have to have the same mindset and the same mentality.”
Serratore notifies the starting goalie Thursday night for Friday games and the Saturday starter after Saturday morning practice.
BSU women’s hockey puts four-game winning streak on the line against No. 2 Minnesota
The Bemidji State women’s hockey team is on a roll heading into this weekend’s series against No. 2 Minnesota at the Sanford Center.
Game times Friday and Saturday are 7:07 p.m.
The Beavers (5-1-2, 2-1-1-0 WCHA) are on a four-game winning streak following back-to-back sweeps of Maine and St. Cloud State.
BSU has outscored the opposition 23-5 in that span and the BSU offense has been so potent that senior defenseman Marlee Wheelhouse smiled when asked about the team’s scoring abilities to start this season.
“I think if you ask anyone it is a surprise,” Wheelhouse said. “We graduated a lot of our scorers from last year and we knew coming in someone was going to have to take on the role of a goal scorer. Upperclassmen, defensemen, forwards – we all have to put it on our shoulders to score.”
The Beavers have seven players with three goals or more in the first eight games of the season. BSU had six players with three or more goals all of last season.
“It may not always be the prettiest of goals but we’re going to dig, scrap and find ways to put the puck in the net,” Wheelhouse said. “If we can find a way to do that the rest of the season, it’s going to be a great season.”
Junior Emily Erickson has a team-high six goals and 13 points. Sadie Lundquist and Montana Vichorek each have four goals and 10 assists to lead the team in points with 14.
The balanced effort has the Beavers in the conversation as one of the top teams in the nation to start the year. BSU received eight votes in the USCHO.com national poll and are two votes shy of breaking into the top ten.
Wheelhouse credited BSU’s first month to the leadership from the upperclassmen.
“I think a lot of the girls had to step it up this year to take on bigger roles and we have,” Wheelhouse said. “I think our leadership has been great this year so far. It’s helped the underclassmen get the feel of things. We’ve got some good team chemistry and I think that helps with on ice play.”
Minnesota (7-1, 5-1 WCHA) enters the weekend on a three game-winning streak. The only loss for the Gophers came two weeks ago at current No. 1 ranked Wisconsin.
The Gophers are a deep team as 13 players have at least one goal this year. Amanda Kessel leads the team with nine goals and 17 points.
Former Bemidji High School star and senior captain Sarah Erickson has four goals and seven assists on the season.
“We know they are a fast team and skilled just like past years so they’re going to be flying on us right away to start the game,” Wheelhouse said. “As long as we play our defensive zone, play heads up and make sure we look at their body and not the puck – I think we can skate with this team.”
WCHA women’s hockey fans should check out Ross LaDue’s weekly blog. He used to work in the Bemidji State SID office and is now working at the University of Wisconsin.
What I’m reading this week
Bemidji State at No. 15 Minnesota-Duluth (Friday and Saturday, 7:07)
TV: My9 (KBJR DT 6.2/KRII DT 11.9) out of Duluth is broadcasting both gams this weekend. I’m not sure if the signal can be picked up here in Bemidji but I know it goes as far west as Grand Rapids. The telecast will be streamed on America One for a fee 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 will be at the games this weekendand provide game updates on my Twitter account at the start of the second period @estromgren.
Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore says he hopes to continue scheduling Minnesota-Duluth in non-conference play when the Bulldogs leave for the National COllegiate Hockey Conference in 2013-14. Here’s a look at the Bulldogs this week. From Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune.
No. 2 Denver at Michigan Tech (Friday and Saturday, 6:07)
Interesting to note has been the Pioneers lineup through the first four games. Denver is running seven defensemen and 11 forwards because head coach George Gwozdecky does not want to scratch the seniors on the roster. From Mike Chambers, Denver Post.
Nebraska-Omaha at Wisconsin (Friday and Saturday 7:07)
Omaha defenseman Andrej Sustr played a key role in UNO’s sweep of Alaska-Anchorage last weekend with a pair of goals. Head coach Dean Blais sais the 6-foot-8 forward has improved feet and hand skills this season to give him a better shot. From Chad Purcell, Omaha World Herald.
Wisconsin junior alternate captain Ryan Little will play despite what he calls ‘broken stuff’ in his left hand. The two-way forward hurt the hand last week against North Dakota blocking a shot. From Andy Baggot, Wisconsin State Journal.
St. Cloud State at No. 12 North Dakota (Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07)
St. Cloud State’s Drew LeBlanc is five points from reaching the 100 career points milestone. He’s also managing one of his father’s rental properties as a part time job in St. Cloud. From Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times.
Brothers Mitch MacMillian (St. Cloud) and Mark MacMillian (North Dakota) will play against eachother in the series. From Brad E. Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald.
No. 8 Minnesota at Alaska-Anchorage (Friday and Saturday, 10:07)
This series is a rematch of last year’s WCHA first-round playoff game that UAA won in two games at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers have been looking forward to this weekend. From Roman Augustoviz, Star Tribune.
Here are some more notes on the Gophers from the Star Tribune.
Anchorage’s Jordan Kwas will be out of the game because of a sprained right shoulder. He plays on the power play and has three points on the season. From the Anchorage Daily News.
No. 3 Colorado College at Rensselaer (Friday and Saturday, 6:00)
Colorado College is back in action after a week off. Defenseman Gabe Guentzel has stepped into a leadership role this season and two-way abilities on the ice are a benefit for the Tigers. He decided against turning pro at the end of last season to return for his senior year. From Joe Paisley, Colorado Springs Gazette.
MSU, Mankato update
The Mavericks are not playing this week, which is a good thing as a number of players on the team are recovering from injuries. From Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press.
Alabama-Huntsville program axed
The end has come for Alabama-Huntsville.
With budget concerns, no conference home and declining attendance, UAH interim president Malcolm Portera informed the team Monday that this season would be the last of Division I hockey in Huntsville.
That controversial decision ends the 33-year history of the program.
The decision was tough to stomach for the Huntsville fans.
Here’s an editorial view from The Hunstville Times, which writes how the decision ends a unique aspect to the university and community.
Matt Read goal video
Bemidji State alum Matt Read scored his third goal of the season for the Philadelphia Flyers during Thursday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. Here’s the video:
His third-period goal capped a four-goal comeback by the Flyers to tie the score at 6-6. The Flyers lost the game 9-8.
Read now has three goals and four assists for seven points in the first 10 games of his rookie season.
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. 25.
-Andrew Murray-San Jose Sharks (NHL) 6 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 2 PIM
-Matt Read-Philadelphia (NHL) 8 GP, 2G-4A-6 Pts., 2 PIM
-Matt Francis-Nottingham Panthers (English ELITE League) 18 GP, 4G-11A-15 Pts., 12 PIM
-Brendan Cook-Sonderjyske (Denmark) 14 GP, 8G-4A-12 Pts, 16 PIM
-Tyler Scofield-Klagenfurter AC (Austria) 12 GP, 8G-5A-13 Pts, 2 PIM
-Anssi Tieranta-LeKi (Finland2) 12 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts, 8 PIM
-Mikka Lindholm-HKC (Finland3) 7 GP, 6G-6A-12 Pts., 16 PIM
-Matt Dalton-Vityaz Chekhov (KHL) 13 GP, 2W-8L-2SOL, 91.2 Save %, 3.31 GAA, 2 PIM
-Emil Billberg-Sodertalje (Allsvenskan) 11 GP, 1G-1A-2 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) 7 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 4 PIM
-Jamie Mattie-HC Innsbruck (Austria2) 1 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 0 PIM
-Matt Climie-Chicago (AHL) 2 GP, 1W-1L-OSOL, 93.9 Save %, 2.51 GAA, 0 PIM
-Ian Lowe-Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) 5 GP, 2G-2A-4 Pts., 0 PIM
-Matt Pope-South Carolina (ECHL) 4 GP, 2G-4A-6 Pts., 2 PIM
-Niko Suoraniemi-Eindhoven Kemphanen (Netherlands) 6 GP, 2G-3A-5 Pts., 2 PIM
-Daryl Bat-Tyringe SoSS (Sweden Division 2) 4 GP, 6G-0A-6 Pts., 12 PIM
-Riley Weselowski-Rapid City (CHL) 1 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 0 PIM
-Luke Erickson-Arizona (CHL) 1 GP, 1G-0A-1 Pts., 0 PIM
-Brandon Marino-Quad City (CHL) 1 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 0 PIM
-Andrew Martens-Wichita Thunder (CHL) 1 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 2 PIM
-Ryan Cramer-Tulsa Oilers (CHL) 1 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 0 PIM
-Brady Riesgraf-Fargo Force (USHL) 2 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 2 PIM
-Brendan Harms-Portage Terriers (MJHL) 11 GP, 5G-7A-12 Pts., 21 PIM
-Bob Kinne-Lincoln Stars (USHL) 4 GP, 1G-0A-1 Pts., 0 PIM
-Corey Petrash-Winnipeg Saints (MJHL) 16 GP, 3G-6A-9 Pts., 21 PIM
-Brad Robbins-Sioux City (USHL) 5 GP, 4G-1A-5 Pts., 2 PIM
-Graeme McCormack-Nanaimo Clippers (BCHL) 11 GP, 3G-10A-13 Pts., 12 PIM