Adjusting to life without Matt Read and Ian Lowe this season was major change for the Bemidji State men’s hockey team.
No player felt that adjustment more than junior forward Jordan George, who played on the top line with the graduated seniors and scored 70 points through his first two seasons. After working through a challenging transition period in the fall, George regained his form on the new top line with Aaron McLeod and captain Ben Kinne.
“A lot of credit goes to the linemates I have,” George said. “Losing Read and Lowesy was a big hit but we found chemistry with Clouder and Benny a month into the season. Give them a lot of the credit. It’s been a line effort so far.”
George leads BSU in scoring with 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 points as the Beavers enter this weekend’s final regular season home series against Wisconsin at the Sanford Center (Friday 7:37, Saturday 7:07 p.m.).
George, a Madison native, has at least six games left to match the 36 points he scored last year.
One major question coming into this season was how George, listed at 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds, would handle the WCHA grind without the open spaces Read and Lowe created for him on the ice.
“It (losing Read and Lowe) was a concern in the back of everybody’s mind, but we know we have to step up and it’s not just going to be one guy,” George said. “I think we’ve shown that with a lot of scoring down the columns.”
BSU head coach Tom Serratore called George the “most talented player” for the Beavers and the one player the team looks to when offense is needed. Serratore put George in different center and wing positions at the start of the season to find a way to showcase his offensive abilities.
The right combination was found a month in when McLeod moved up to the first line to center Kinne on the left wing and George on the right wing.
“I think it didn’t put a lot of pressure on George like there was early in the year to generate offense,” Serratore said. “Right now he’s feeling very comfortable. He’s going up and down his wing, and he’s playing a lot like he did with Reader and Lowesy. I’m very happy with where he’s at right now.”
McLeod and Kinne are also benefitting from George’s playmaking abilities. McLeod has 19 points, Kinne has 18 points and the trio together have accounted for eight of BSU’s 15 game-winning goals.
George at times draws the focus of opposing teams and has faced more physical play as a result. George prepared for that change by putting an emphasis on leg and core strength conditioning over the offseason, but said it is not the only reason for his production this year.
“As you get older and have some years under you, the game starts to slow down a little bit,” George said. “A lot of it is linemates working hard to get to spots, driving the net and creating space. It’s been all of us.”
George played at Madison Edgewood High School before moving on to junior hockey in Topeka (NAHL) and Bemidji State.
He grew up watching Wisconsin play hockey at the Kohl Center and returned home in December 2010 with the Beavers. He scored a goal in the series BSU lost by 3-2 and 2-0 scores.
“It’s always a big game playing the hometown team,” George said. “We got swept by them last year at their place so we want to come out and show them what we’ve got … I always get a little more motivation (playing Wisconsin) but I have to approach it like any other game. There are four points on the line and a chance to get home ice so we really have to make a push here.”