The Bemidji State men’s hockey team and Denver have become familiar opponents.
The two teams open the second half of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association season with a rematch this weekend at Magness Arena against the No. 16 Pioneers (Friday 8:37, Saturday 8:07 p.m.). After this series, Bemidji State will have only played Nebraska-Omaha (8) more times than Denver (7) as league members.
“We both know how each other play, know how we like to get up the ice, so it should be an interesting matchup out there and we’ll see how it goes,” BSU captain Ben Kinne said.
The second half of the season starts the quest for home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. The Beavers (11-9-2, 5-7-2 WCHA) are in the hunt and know the importance of this series along with the other remaining six to close out the regular season.
BSU started its current five-game winning streak with a 2-1 win against Denver back on Dec. 10. The four wins since have come against Alabama-Huntsville and Bowling Green. The Denver series this weekend is part of a scheduling lull of six games spread out over six weeks.
“We have to be mentally strong about it, everybody wants to play every weekend but I know it’s going to wear on us a little bit to be on and off, on and off,” Kinne said. “We’ve just got to buckle down and know that our task at hand is to get (playoff) home ice and we have to stay with it.”
Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said he dislikes the down time on the schedule this year but is not concerned about it. The Beavers head to Denver 8-1-1 in the last nine games.
“We’ve had a lot of confidence over the last month and the guys have played a lot of good hockey,” Serratore said. “I think they feel good about themselves and they’re chomping at the bit ready to play a game right now. They’re bored with practice as are the coaches. We’re ready to play some games.”
Denver (11-8-3, 6-5-3 WCHA) is coming off a home split Alabama-Huntsville last weekend and are dealing with injuries to key players.
Out this weekend is goalie Sam Brittain (offseason knee surgery), defenseman David Makowski (undisclosed), Johnny Ryder (knee) and Beau Bennett (wrist surgery). Returning to the lineup will be Minnesota Wild draft pick Jason Zucker, who was the captain for Team USA at the World Junior Championships last month.
Zucker scored the game-tying goal and helped the Pioneers rally for the 3-2 win over the BSU last month as part of a third-period Beaver breakdown.
DU head coach George Gwozdecky characterized the series as ‘ping pong’ games, referring to Bemidji State’s effort to dump the puck to the backboards and defensive style.
“Some of the things they did took advantage of our unwillingness to adjust,” Gwozdecky said. “This is going to be a very good first test for us in our second half of the season.”
The loss to the Pioneers was the only blemish for the Beavers in the run over the last 10 games. Bemidji State started the season 4-8-1 before defeating North Dakota to turn the season around.
“I think we’ve made some good steps,” Serratore said. “It was very tough early on. We had no consistency to our game and zero continuity to our lines. I think what we’ve done is establish to our top two lines, which I think once you do that, it helps your team.”
Serratore credited top line center Aaron McLeod for bringing stability to the lineup.
“Our game has picked up, we have more depth, we’re tougher to play against and our chemistry right now is good,” Serratore said.
Junior winger Jordan George is pacing the BSU offense with a team-leading 11 goals and 18 points on the season. Senior defenseman Brad Hunt (17 points) and the breakout season from senior forward Shea Walters (15 points) have also played key roles.
Bemidji State’s defense has been a strong point in the first half with the help of freshmen. Matt Prapavessis and Sam Windle have assumed regular roles on the defense.
Goalie Andrew Walsh has six wins in nine games and a .935 save percentage and will likely be in competition with Denver’s Juho Olkinuora for goalie honor on the All-WCHA Rookie team at the end of the year.
Walsh is currently in a starting competition with senior Dan Bakala and Serratore said starters at this point are determined on a week-to-week basis. He said Walsh will start Friday night based on his previous win against Denver and recent performance, but did not commit to Saturday’s starter.
Serratore noted the progress of Danny Mattson, who has three points in his last two games played.
“We need our forwards to elevate their game,” Serratore said. “The WCHA is a men’s league and it takes awhile for people. But now freshmen are no longer freshmen. They know exactly what to expect, they know how to do things and hopefully we’ll see them continue to improve and become contributors.”
Ben Kinne interview
Bemidji State captain Ben Kinne talks about this weekend’s series against Denver, the holiday schedule and the team’s performance in the first half of the season.
BSU women host Ohio State, Kelly honored
The No. 9 Bemidji State women’s hockey team has an intense three-week road trip looming on the schedule.
The last home series before that trip starts is this weekend against Ohio State at the Sanford Center (Friday and Saturday, 7:07 p.m.).
“It’s huge as far as the standings go,” BSU head coach Steve Sertich said. “We’re one point below them so hopefully we can get some points and pass them up.”
The Beavers (13-8-2, 7-8-1-0 WCHA) are coming off an unexpected home split against Minnesota State University, Mankato. The Mavericks rallied in the third period of Friday’s game to win 2-1 but the Beavers earned a split on Saturday with a 4-0 win. The split dropped the Beavers one position in the national poll.
“Obviously we responded and we had a good game Saturday night,” Sertich said. “We were a little disappointed we gave that one (Friday) away. Give credit to Mankato for outplaying us in the third period. So those points will hurt and we’ll have to get them someplace else down the stretch.”
Ohio State (10-8-4, 7-8-1-1 WCHA) tied and defeated the Beavers by 4-4 and 5-3 scores back in the first week of October in the first WCHA series of the year.
The Buckeyes are 1-3-2 in the last six games and are coming off a series split at last place St. Cloud State. The Buckeyes are led by three-time Canadian U22 player Natalie Spooner, who has 18 goals on the year.
Bemidji State enters the series with five players over the 20-point mark on the season: Sadie Lundquist (27), Emily Erickson (22), Montana Vichorek (21), Erika Wheelhouse (21) and Marlee Wheelhouse (21).
After this weekend’s series the Beavers go on the road to face Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota before closing out the home season against Minnesota-Duluth.
BSU freshman Rachael Kelly was honored as the WCHA Newcomer of the Week by the league office on Thursday for her two-assist performance in last week’s series split against Minnesota State University, Mankato.
She had the assist on Danielle Williams’ game-winning goal in Bemidji State’s 4-0 win over the Mavericks last Saturday night.
The honor marked Kelly’s second Newcomer award of the year.
What I’m reading this weeek
Bemidji State at No. 16 Denver (Friday 8:37, Saturday 8:07)
TV: Friday’s game will be broadcast on ROOT SPORTS and carried by Fox College Sports Pacific. The game is available locally on DirecTV channel 683 and Dish Network channel 414. FCS Pacific is available on Paul Bunyan Communications channel 70 and MidContinent Communications channel 315.
Radio: Locally on The Mix 103.7 FM and online at the Beaver Radio Network.
Twitter:I’ll be taking photos during the first period and I 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.
Bemidji State sophomore Kyle Brodie is from the Denver suburb of Northglenn and a Broncos fan. He said he sees a little bit of Tim Tebow in the Beavers and you can read my story here.
There was some second guessing in Denver about giving Jason Zucker last week off after he spent the last month as the captain for Team USA at the World Junior Tournament. The Pioneers split its home series with Alabama-Huntsville, giving the Chargers only its second win of the year (the other was against Omaha). Denver head coach George Gwozdecky explained his reasons for the decision, which was a precedent set by former Pioneer Matt Carle in 2004. From Terry Frei, Denver Post.
No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth at Nebraska-Omaha (Friday 6:37, Saturday 7:07)
There’s a face-off this weekend between Hermantown’s Krause brothers, Joe for Omaha and Adam for Duluth. Joe Krause regained his eligibility after Christmas and played in his first game since 2010. The Mavericks will be playing without defenseman Andrej Sustr, out with an unspecificed upper-body injury suffered Dec. 30 against Quinnipiac. From Rob White, Oamha World-Herald.
The Bulldogs are scoring an average of 4.10 goals per game, tops in NCAA Division I entering this season. UMD head coach Scott Sandelin is especially pleased with the five-on-five scoring (109 of UMD’s 134 goals). From Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune.
Nebraska-Omaha coach and International Falls native Dean Blais turned 60 this week and looks to have no signs of retiring anytime soon. From Tom Shatel, Omaha World-Herald.
No. 5 Minnesota at No. 17 North Dakota (Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07)
North Dakota is 7-1-1 in its last nine games after starting out 3-6-1. And UND has that mark despite not having enough players to fill out a full lineup. Derek Rodwell (season) and Rocco Grimaldi (knee) won’t be available against Minnesota. But Korban Knight (leg), Derek Forbort (undisclosed) and captain Mario Lamoureux are game-time decisions. From Brad E. Schlossman Grand Forks Herald.
Gophers captain Tyler Matson talks about the atmosphere at the Ralph and said the Gophers holiday break did the team good. From Roman Augustoviz, Star Tribune.
Minnesota freshman Kyle Rau is looking forward to his first series at the Ralph. From Roman Augustoviz, Star Tribune.
Wisconsin at Minnesota State University, Mankato (Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07)
The Badgers know earning home ice in the first round of the playoffs will mean a good second half on the road as eight of its final 14 games come away from Madison. One of those series is Feb. 24-25 at the Sanford Center. From Andy Baggot, Wisconsin State Journal.
Home ice is also on the minds of the Huskies said Mel Pearson on his radio show at 93.5 FM WKMJ. He said it was a back-to-basics approach this week at practice and he’s hoping Jordan Barker and Jacob Johnstone (three goals) can contribute more as the team moves forward. Tech Hockey Guide.
St. Cloud State at No. 8 Colorado College (Friday 8:37, Saturday 8:07)
Injured St. Cloud State goalie Mike Lee will not be making the trip this weekend, but he’s been practicing with the team the last two weeks. He had hip surgery Nov. 15 and was not expected to return until late February. From Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times.
Colorado College sophomore defenseman Eamonn McDermott will be out at least a month due to a knee injury he suffered this week during practice. From Brian Gomez, Colorado Springs Gazette.
Alaska-Anchorage at Michigan Tech (Friday 6:07, Saturday 6:07)
Anchorage junior winger Mickey Spencer, the Seawolves’ leading scorer, recently left the team. UAA will get Matt Bailey, Jade Portwood, Brad Gorham, Derek Docken and Alex Gellert back from injuries this weekend. From Doyle Woody, Anchorage Daily News.
Millsy’s Former and Future Beavers Update
Couple of All-Star notes:
Former Beaver Matt Read was named to the NHL All-Star game roster on Thursday. He was one of 12 rookies named and he has 25 points for the Philadelphia Flyers this season. His 13 goals are tied for the rookie lead in goal scoring.
Former Beaver Brandon Marino was named the Most Valuable Player of the Central Hockey League All-Star game. He scored the game-winning goal and had three assists for the CHL All-Stars in a 6-4 win over the host Arizona Sundogs.
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 Jan. 10.
-Andrew Murray-San Jose Sharks (NHL) 33 GP, 1G-2A-3 Pts., 4 PIM, +4
-Matt Read-Philadelphia (NHL) 37 GP, 13G-12A-25 Pts., 2 PIM, +6
-Matt Francis-Nottingham Panthers (ELITE League) 40 GP, 12G-22A-34 Pts., 23 PIM
-Brendan Cook-Sonderjyske (Denmark) 23 GP, 13G-11A-24 Pts, 18 PIM
-Tyler Scofield-Klagenfurter AC (Austria) 26 GP, 11G-8A-19 Pts, 8 PIM
-Anssi Tieranta-LeKi (Finland2) 11 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts, 8 PIM (Injured)
-Mikka Lindholm-HKC (Finland3) 21 GP, 11G-11A-22 Pts., 28 PIM
-Matt Dalton-Vityaz Chekhov (KHL) 29 GP, 7W-17L-4SOL, 91.0 Save %, 3.45 GAA, 9 PIM
-Emil Billberg-Sodertalje (Allsvenskan) 33 GP, 4G-3A-7 Pts., 6 PIM
-Ryan Huddy-Valpelice (Italy) 18 GP, 7G-14A-21 Pts., 6 PIM (Injured)
-Rob Sirianni-Valpelice (Italy) 31 GP, 19G-18A-37 Pts., 28 PIM
-Chris McKelvie-Connecticut Whale (AHL) 29 GP, 2G-2A-4 Pts., 33 PIM, +0
-Jamie Mattie-HC Innsbruck (Austria2) 14 GP, 0G-7A-7 Pts., 6 PIM
-Matt Climie-Chicago (AHL) 16 GP, 10W-5L-OSOL, 92.4 Save %, 2.57 GAA, 2 PIM, 2 Assists
*******-Vancouver Canucks (NHL) 0 GP, sent back to Chicago
-Ian Lowe-Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) 30 GP, 7G-12A-19 Pts., 29 PIM, -4
*******-Texas Stars (AHL) 6 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 2 PIM, -2 (Returned to Idaho)
-Matt Pope-South Carolina (ECHL) 15 GP, 7G-12A-19 Pts., 4 PIM, +5
*******-Hershey Bears (AHL) 13 GP, 3G-2A-5 Pts., 10 PIM, +3
-Niko Suoraniemi-Eindhoven Kemphanen (Netherlands) 28 GP, 6G-16A-22 Pts., 16 PIM
-Daryl Bat-Tyringe SoSS (Sweden Division 2) 20 GP, 10G-12A-22 Pts., 26 PIM
-Riley Weselowski-Rapid City (CHL) 31 GP, 7G-16A-23 Pts., 41 PIM, +12
-Luke Erickson-Arizona (CHL) 33 GP, 11G-8A-19 Pts., 22 PIM, -16
-Brandon Marino-Quad City (CHL) 32 GP, 22G-24A-46 Pts., 12 PIM, +1
-Andrew Martens-Wichita Thunder (CHL) 27 GP, 8G-14A-22 Pts., 22 PIM, +20
*******Oklahoma City Barons (AHL) 6 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 0 PIM, -3
-Ryan Cramer-Tulsa Oilers (CHL) 28 GP, 11G-14A-25 Pts., 29 PIM, -2
-Brady Riesgraf-Fargo Force (USHL) 3 GP, 0G-0A-0 Pts., 2 PIM, +1
**********-Coulee Region Chill (NAHL) 14 GP. 0G-2A-2 Pts., 6 PIM, -11
-Brendan Harms-Portage Terriers (MJHL) 22 GP, 10G-16A-26 Pts., 27 PIM
-Bob Kinne-Lincoln Stars (USHL) 19 GP, 3G-2A-5 Pts., 6 PIM, 0
-Corey Petrash-Winnipeg Saints (MJHL) 38 GP, 11G-15A-26Pts., 44 PIM
-Brad Robbins-Sioux City (USHL) 27 GP, 16G-14A-30 Pts., 12 PIM, -8
-Graeme McCormack-Nanaimo Clippers (BCHL) 37 GP, 10G-33A-43 Pts., 32 PIM
-Cody Ward-Aberdeen Wings (NAHL) 32 GP, 20G-22A-42 Pts., 23 PIM, +13
If you see or take a great hockey photo, send your submission to me at email@example.com for consideration as the parting shot.
See you at the rink.