Bemidji State hockey: Areshenko has family ties to BSU, North Dakota
If Jake Areshenko's basketball career developed as well as his hockey career did, he may have ended up playing at Bemidji State anyway.
The junior alternate captain from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia has family in the region and his grandfather, Dave Gunther, coached the BSU men's basketball team from 1995-2001.
"I did play basketball in ninth grade in high school and I liked it, but it really wasn't my game," Areshenko said.
Areshenko visited his grandparents - Dave and Jane - in Bemidji in the summer when he was 12 years old and attended the hockey camp run by former BSU hockey coach R.H. 'Bob' Peters.
"It's kind of interesting looking back, thinking I went to hockey camp, not thinking anything of it and all of a sudden I'm in Bemidji. That's kind of cool," Areshenko said.
When Areshenko was being recruited by the Beavers and other programs, it was the family connections that helped persuade him to attend to BSU.
"He (Dave) was rooting for Bemidji and telling me about the tradition and how good the school was here as well," Areshenko said. "He lives in Grand Forks now and my grandparents come to pretty much every home series. That's nice to have family around because I'm not close to here."
Gunther also coached men's basketball at the University of North Dakota from 1971-88 and his 332 career wins are second most in the UND record book. Ahead of him on top of the list at 335 wins is former Bemidji High School star athlete Rich Glas, the son of former BSU vice president John S. Glas. Rich Glas coached UND from 1989-2006.
Those connections show how close the ties are between the Highway 2 connected cities of Bemidji and Grand Forks.
The North Dakota men's hockey team comes to the Sanford Center?Saturday and?Sunday to face the Beavers in one of the most anticipated matchups on the local hockey calendar. It will be the only weekend the two teams compete in the regular season.
For the players, this weekend is viewed as another series against elite competition in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
"Being in the WCHA now I think everyone is accustomed to these big teams," Areshenko said. "Whatever team comes in is a big game for us. We need to get wins - every weekend is a huge weekend for us."
Areshenko is one of the leaders on this year's team as an alternate captain and at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, he is often asked to use his size to match up against the top opposing players.
He came to BSU after playing the 2008-09 season with the Fargo Force junior team in the United States Hockey League under current Nebraska-Omaha head coach Dean Blais.
Areshenko was an impact freshman for BSU, played in 33 games and was named to the All-College Hockey America Rookie team. He earned his playing time with captain Kyle Hardwick, current captain Brad Hunt, Chris Peluso, Ryan Adams and Dan MacIntyre ahead of him on the depth chart.
"I came in thinking I would work my hardest and try and get on the playing roster," Areshenko said. "That was my focus at the start. I think just working hard every day like I did coming in is key to staying in the lineup."
Areshenko's offensive numbers are not eye-popping with two goals and 12 assists through his first three seasons, but his contributions away from the score sheet are more important to BSU head coach Tom Serratore.
"Jake's the heart and soul of our hockey team," Serratore said. "He's difficult to play against and when he's on the ice, we're very confident from a coaching standpoint. Everything he does is hard. He shoots the puck hard, he hits hard, he defends hard. He doesn't say a lot and his actions speak for himself."
Serratore compared Areshenko's style to former BSU defensemen David Deterding and Nathan Schwartzbauer.
"People don't know a lot about those guys because they don't get a ton of points, but they eat up a lot of minutes and you rely heavily on those guys," Serratore said.
The Beavers (4-7-1, 2-5-1 WCHA) have struggled since a home sweep of Michigan Tech three weeks ago. The Beavers have one win in the last six games, a 3-2 non-conference win at Lake Superior State on Nov. 4.
"Hopefully we can get some wins under our belts soon," Areshenko said. "I think we're just feeling things out right now and we've had a good couple days of practice so far. We've got to shoot the puck and be tough to play against - that's the two biggest things we have to do to get wins on the board."