An Olympic hockey rink like the one at St. Cloud’s National Hockey Center measures 200 feet long and 100 feet wide – a full 15 feet wider than the Sanford Center rink and all other National Hockey League rinks around North America.
The extra 15 feet has posed problems for the Bemidji State men’s hockey team during the Division I era as the Beavers are 8-33-3 record on Olympic ice since the 1999-2000 season. BSU will get another chance to improve that record this weekend at St. Cloud State (Friday 7:37 p.m. and Saturday 7:07 p.m.).
“The biggest thing is that there’s a lot of dead space,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “Special teams and adjusting on the penalty kill has been a little difficult for us. We’re an aggressive penalty killing team so you have to temper that a little bit.”
Bemidji State junior David Boehm said he’s looking forward to playing on big sheet as are the rest of the Beavers (5-8-1, 3-6-1 WCHA).
“I think most of our small fast guys do (like it),” Boehm said. “I think you do have a little bit more time and creativity out there to make plays. Then again, if you turn the puck over it’s a long way back to back check.”
The Beavers were 4-4 on Olympic ice last year but are 0-2 this year after a pair of losses to Colorado College in October.
The Beaver’s penalty kill – ranked second in WCHA play at 84.1 percent – will go up against St. Cloud State’s last ranked power play, which has four goals in league play this season. But statistics have mattered little in the course of St. Cloud State’s (6-3-7, 4-4-2 WCHA) season so far.
The Huskies lost captains in junior goalie Mike Lee and senior forward Drew LeBlanc to season-ending injuries. Lee, who was expected to be the regular starter, was hurt in practice and had hip surgery after five games. LeBlanc broke two bones in his leg in a collision with the boards during a home game against Wisconsin and needed surgery.
St. Cloud State has rallied around freshman goalie and Fort Frances native Ryan Faragher. Though the Huskies enter this weekend winless in the last three games, Faragher has backstopped SCSU to a shutout road win against North Dakota, a three-point home weekend against Wisconsin and a 4-3 win over then No. 1 Minnesota two weeks ago at the National Hockey Center.
“They’ve got depth,” Serratore said. “When you have depth you’re going to win games. LeBlanc’s a loss and so is Mike Lee, but Farragher has been outstanding. He’s done a very good job replacing Mike Lee and he’s one of the better goalies in the country. Someone else gets to step up, play minutes and they’re producing.”
The Beavers did not play Thanksgiving weekend and are coming off a 1-0 home win against North Dakota on Nov. 20 in a game where goalie Dan Bakala had 26 saves in his first shutout of the season. The win was Bemidji State’s first in the Division I era against UND and it ended a four-game winless streak.
Serratore said the week off came at a good time for the Beavers, which played eight straight weekends to open the season.
“It was good not only physically to heal up bumps and bruises, but mentally as well,” Serratore said. “I put a lot of stock and value in having a weekend off, even if you’re winning. It was nice getting a win before the break, that’s for sure.”
Serratore said sophomore forward Radoslav Illo has recovered from his upper body injury and will return this weekend after missing the last three games. BSU hoped sophomore defenseman Sam Rendle’s shoulder injury would heal with two weeks off, but he has opted for surgery to repair a chronic dislocation and will sit out the rest of the season as a medical redshirt.
BSU senior defenseman Brad Hunt enters the series with nine assists and a team-leading 11 points. He has 76 career assists and is approaching a pair of milestones.
He needs two more assists to break Matt Read’s school record for assists (78) in the Division-I era and six more assists to break Terry Mattson’s career record (81) for defenseman.
Junior forward Jordan George leads the Beavers with seven goals on the year and is tied at nine points with forwards Shea Walters and Brance Orban.
George was key to the series split against the Huskies at the National Hockey Center last November and factored in on all six BSU.
The Beavers beat St. Cloud 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 6 last season for the first WCHA win in program history, but the Huskies came to Bemidji in January to sweep the Beavers and won the season series 3-1.
“It’s going to be fast paced,” Boehm said of the series this weekend. “We’re going to try and make it hard-hitting and try to make it more defensive. We know they are a quick offensive transition team. We’re going to try and match their speed, and match their counter attack.”
David Boehm Interview
Bemidji State’s David Boehm talks about this weekend’s series against St. Cloud State, playing on an Olympic-sized rink and the week off after the win against North Dakota.
What I’m reading this weeek
Bemidji State (Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07)
TV: No television locally in Bemidji. Charter Channel 87 in St. Cloud carries the game for Charter Communications customers in that area. There is also a video webcast on America One for a fee. More information here.
Radio: Locally in Bemidji on The Mix 103.7 FM and online at the Beaver Radio Network. St. Cloud home radio is available on AM 1450 KNSIand on SCSU student radio KVSC 88.1 FM.
Twitter: I’ll be taking photos during the first period and will provide game updates on my Twitter account at the start of the second period @estromgren. You can expect line charts up on this blog around a half hour before the game starts.
I wrote more about Sam Rendle’s decision to undergo surgery to repair his injured shoulder in Thursday’s paper. You can read that story here if you missed it.
There’s a Fort Frances connection in this weekend’s series with Bemidji State freshman Mitch Cain and St. Cloud State freshman goalie Ryan Faragher. The two Fort Frances natives played junior hockey there in 2008-09. Cain was profiled in the Fort Frances Times this week and he said this about facing Faragher:
“I can’t wait to try and put one past him,” Cain smiled.
Read the full story on Mitch Cain (and what he did for Thanksgiving with some of the BSU freshmen) at the Fort Frances Times from Lucas Punkari.
Ben Hanowski leads SCSU in scoring with 10 goals and 18 points. He has at least one point in 11 of the 16 games this season. Hanowski had 13 goals and 20 points — both career-best marks — last season in 37 games. Only one of his goals has come on the power play. Huskies game notes from Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times.
In Beaver alumni news, ESPN’s Jon Buccigross gave his quarter-season NHL Trophy awards in his blog this week. He has Matt Read at second in the Calder Trophy race (rookie of the year) and gave the slight edge to Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Read more at ESPN.com.
MSU, Mankato at at No. 5 Minnesota (Friday, Saturday 7:07)
Mankato’s Tyler Elbrecht tested out his surgically repaired left arm for the first time Monday and it appears he will play against the Gophers. He has been out of the lineup since he broke the arm during the season-opener at Rensselaer Oct. 7. From Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press.
The Gophers have struggled in Friday night games on the road this season, but are 11-4-1 on the year and hold a slim one-point lead atop the WCHA standings. From Roman Augustoviz, Star Tribune.
No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth at No. 20 Michigan Tech (Friday, Saturday 6:07)
The Bulldogs are unbeaten in their last 10 games (8-0-2) and are tied with Omaha at 15 points for second place in the WCHA standings. UMD doesn’t want to get complacent after a week off. From Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune.
The Huskies return home after a 9,000-mile, 13-day road trip to Anchorage and St. Lawrence. Tech split both series and head coach Mel Pearson called it a good trip for a number of reasons. From Stephen Anderson, Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.
No. 10 Denver at No. 8 Colorado College (Friday 9:07)
The front range schools battle for the Gold Pan trophy and there’s a lot at stake for Colorado College. From Joe Paisley, Colorado Springs Gazette.
North Dakota at Alaska-Anchorage (Friday, Saturday 10:07)
North Dakota is looking to avoid the distractons of playing in Anchorage. UND leads the all-time series 26-3-3 in games played in Grand Forks but are 15-14-1 against the Seawolves in Anchorage. From Brad E. Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald.
UND will discontinue the use of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo as of Jan. 1 according to an e-mail sent to the WCHA and other organizations from a senior UND athletics official. From Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald.
Nebraska-Omaha at Alabama-Huntsville (Friday 7:00, Saturday 1:00)
This series will be played at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, the home of the NHL’s Nashville Predators. Saturday’s game precedes the Predators-Sabres game.
There’s a heated goaltending battle going on in Omaha with Dayn Belfour, Ryan Massa and John Faulkner in competition for the starting spot. Belfour is the son of former NHL star and North Dakota star Eddie Belfour. He has started in three games this season for UNO. From Rob White, Omaha World-Herald.
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 Nov. 30.
-Andrew Murray-San Jose Sharks (NHL) 21 GP, 1G-1A-2 Pts., 4 PIM, +2
-Matt Read-Philadelphia (NHL) 20 GP, 9G-5A-14 Pts., 2 PIM, +9
-Matt Francis-Nottingham Panthers (ELITE League) 27 GP, 8G-14A-22 Pts., 19 PIM, +1
-Brendan Cook-Sonderjyske (Denmark) 19 GP, 11G-5A-16 Pts, 18 PIM
-Tyler Scofield-Klagenfurter AC (Austria) 14 GP, 8G-5A-13 Pts, 2 PIM, +6
-Anssi Tieranta-LeKi (Finland2) 12 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts, 8 PIM (Injured)
-Mikka Lindholm-HKC (Finland3) 14 GP, 10G-10A-20 Pts., 24 PIM
-Matt Dalton-Vityaz Chekhov (KHL) 22 GP, 5W-12L-4SOL, 91.9 Save %, 3.17 GAA, 9 PIM
-Emil Billberg-Sodertalje (Allsvenskan) 23 GP, 4G-2A-6 Pts., 6 PIM
-Ryan Huddy-Valpelice (Italy) 18 GP, 7G-14A-21 Pts., 6 PIM, +1
-Rob Sirianni-Valpelice (Italy) 18 GP, 14G-9A-23 Pts., 16 PIM, +2
-Chris McKelvie-Connecticut Whale (AHL) 16 GP, 1G-1A-2 Pts., 13 PIM, +2
-Jamie Mattie-HC Innsbruck (Austria2) 7 GP, 0G-4A-4 Pts., 2 PIM
-Matt Climie-Chicago (AHL) 9 GP, 6W-3L-OSOL, 93.5 Save %, 2.34 GAA, 0 PIM, 1 Assist
********-Vancouver Canucks (NHL) 0 GP, sent back to Chicago
-Ian Lowe-Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) 19 GP, 6G-7A-13 Pts., 23 PIM, -3
-Matt Pope-South Carolina (ECHL) 15 GP, 7G-12A-19 Pts., 4 PIM, +5
*******-Hershey Bears (AHL) 2 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 0 PIM, +0
-Niko Suoraniemi-Eindhoven Kemphanen (Netherlands) 15 GP, 5G-8A-13 Pts., 6 PIM
-Daryl Bat-Tyringe SoSS (Sweden Division 2) 14 GP, 10G-8A-18 Pts., 24 PIM
-Riley Weselowski-Rapid City (CHL) 15 GP, 1G-6A-7 Pts., 25 PIM, +0
-Luke Erickson-Arizona (CHL) 17 GP, 7G-6A-13 Pts., 12 PIM, -4
-Brandon Marino-Quad City (CHL) 14 GP, 8G-11A-19 Pts., 2 PIM, -4
-Andrew Martens-Wichita Thunder (CHL) 15 GP, 6G-9A-15 Pts., 16 PIM, +14
-Ryan Cramer-Tulsa Oilers (CHL) 17 GP, 6G-10A-16 Pts., 4 PIM, -1
-Brady Riesgraf-Fargo Force (USHL) 3 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 2 PIM, +1
**********-Coulee Region Chill (NAHL) 6 GP. 0G-2A-2 Pts., 4 PIM, -9
-Brendan Harms-Portage Terriers (MJHL) 13 GP, 5G-10A-15 Pts., 25 PIM
-Bob Kinne-Lincoln Stars (USHL) 12 GP, 2G-1A-3 Pts., 2 PIM, +2
-Corey Petrash-Winnipeg Saints (MJHL) 28 GP, 8G-12A-20Pts., 25 PIM
-Brad Robbins-Sioux City (USHL) 15 GP, 10G-7A-17 Pts., 4 PIM, -1
-Graeme McCormack-Namaimo Clippers (BCHL) 25 GP, 7G-25A-32 Pts., 24 PIM