Bemidji State men's hockey: Beavers embark on key conference road trip
When the 2008-09 schedule came out, the Bemidji State men's hockey program took special notice of a road trip in mid-February.
The road trip included a series at Robert Morris followed by another at Niagara. The hope was the Beavers would be in a position where the road trip would mean something as far as determining the regular season College Hockey America champion.
Well, that time is now. And the Beavers have taken care of business in the CHA this year so the series indeed has major importance.
Winners of their last five game in a row, all against CHA competition, the Beavers (13-13-0, 9-3-0 CHA) begin a two game series against Robert Morris University(5-17-4, 1-7-2 CHA ) in Pittsburgh tonight. The series concludes Sunday.
The Beavers will then stay in Pittsburgh through Wednesday before heading to Niagara for a Thursday/Friday series.
How the Beavers come out of the weekend will go a long way in determining if a conference championship is in the cards.
The Beavers are coming off a two game sweep of Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, winning 2-0 and 4-2 to extend their winning streak to five.
"It was a huge series for us in that we got back to .500 overall and stayed in the hunt for a league championship," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "Both mean a lot to us as a program.
"It'll now be interesting to see how we respond to not only four games on the road, but also four games in seven days."
The Beavers success of late on be traced to one main area -- special teams play. Over the last five games the Beavers have connected on 10 of 33 power play chances, a sizzling .303 success rate.
That has lifted to the Beavers' season power play stat to .209 -- fifth highest in the nation.
The BSU penalty kill has been equally impressive over the same stretch. The Beavers have successfully killed 27 of 30 opponent chances, for a .900 success rate -- eye-popping numbers.
"Special teams are winning games for us right now," Serratore reported. "On the penalty kill it all starts with strong goaltending and we've been getting that. On the power play it's all about puck control and concentration, then getting shots on net."
While the Beavers have been winning, Robert Morris has experienced the other side of the coin, losing its last five. The Beavers took it to them just two weekends ago, winning 5-3 and 5-1 in Pittsburgh.
Serratore issued a cautionary note to those who think the Colonials will be easy pickings this time around.
"RMU will be a better team this weekend, no question," he said. "Hopefully our players are mature enough to realize that.
"It won't be as easy as it was for the Saturday game in the last series. It will be interesting to see what kind of changes Robert Morris will incorporate into their game plan."
Beaver captain Cody Bostock reported BSU will not enter the series overconfident in the least.
"This will be a very interesting road trip and it couldn't come at a better time of the year for us," he said. "I think we all know the importance of every league game throughout the season.
"Nobody on our team will be complacent, no matter who we are playing. You can't be, especially this time of year. We know what we have to do in order to be successful. Now we just have go out there and do it."
E In another key CHA series Niagara picked up a 4-2 win Friday at Alabama-Huntsville. UAH took a 2-0 lead, only to have the Purple Eagles counter with four unanswered goals over the first and second periods. The teams conclude the series in a 2 p.m. start today.
E The Beavers 4-2 win over UAH last Saturday was BSU's 150th in NCAA DI w play. Since making the jump to the major college hockey level BSU is 150-161-33 (.484).
E This season, when BSU takes a lead into the third period the Beavers are a perfect 10-0-0.
E Freshman defender Brad Hunt leads the team in power play points (7-9--16) and goals (7). He needs just one more goal to tie Stephan Bjork (1999-200) for BSU's all-time record of power play goals by a defenseman in a single season.