Bemidji State men's hockey: Beavers follow up Frozen Four with a 'tremendous season'
Another season, another historic year for the Bemidji State men's hockey team.
Sum up the 2009-10 regular season in two words? How about gratifying and tough.
The Beavers, fresh off a historic run to the Frozen Four, started the 2009-10 season with a flourish. Bemidji State started 7-0-1 and then was defeated at the University of Minnesota. But the Beavers rebounded the next night and recorded their first ever win at Mariucci Arena.
BSU stayed on a roll, moving to 10-1-1 and defeating then No. 1 ranked Miami. The Beavers ended the first half of the season an impressive 13-4-1 and became a fixture in the top 10 of the national polls.
The Beavers started the second half strong, posting a tie and win at Western Michigan. Down the stretch the Beavers finished 9-4-1 with more impressive wins, including a sweep of Minnesota-Duluth and a win at Nebraska-Omaha to finish 23-8-3 and 14-3-1 in the College Hockey America.
Along the way the Beavers won their third straight CHA regular season title, posted a record of 6-2-1 against teams ranked in the top 25 nationally and finished with a record of 10-4-3 on the road - one of only four teams in the country to notch double digit road wins.
It's been a mind boggling run over the last year and a half for BSU. In the last 50 games the Beavers have posted a record of 35-11-4 for a winning percentage of .740. In the CHA over the last four years, the Beavers are 39-12-5 for a .741 winning percentage.
"In general, we've had an unbelievable year so far," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "There's no doubt we played our best early in the season, when we were really clicking. We've been a little inconsistent in the second half. But the second half of the season is always tougher, everybody's in a zone and ready to roll.
"Still, 23-8-3 is a tremendous season. To be successful, you have to win on the road and that's why we're in the position we're in now. Winning consistently on the road shows character, heart and guts - I can't say enough about how proud I am of the guys. We were only swept once all year, that means we got points every other weekend on the season.
"Overall, finishing with a record like this - I'll probably never coach another team with this kind of record and the players will probably never be on another team with a record like this. You have to appreciate it now, while it's happening. From that standpoint, you can't beat this season."
The Beavers faced only one real hiccup in the regular season, going 4-4-1 during the mid-point. But BSU showed resiliency and turned things around.
"To win the CHA regular season like we did was impressive," Serratore reported. The Beavers put the title virtually out of reach of the other three teams by starting out 9-1-0. "We ended 5-0-1 against UAH, 5-1-0 against Niagara and 4-2 against RMU," he said. "Having that type of success in the league really helped us in comparisons with other teams. It was a huge part of several comparisons in our favor for Pairwise."
Now, with the playoffs at hand, Serratore contemplated how the Beavers have been playing down the stretch.
"We had two sweeps in the second half and a small four game win streak," he said. "It's been tough for us. We're pressing a bit right now, no question. There's been a lot of pressure and anxiety in the second half. We have been playing each week knowing we have to win to maintain our position in Pairwise. The coaches know it; the players know it. It's like we've been in playoff hockey mode for the last two months. It drains you.
"We went to Omaha and played a team that had a 13-2-2 record on their home ice, knowing we had to get a win. We went to UAH, knowing we had to get a least three points. We've found ways to get it done. But it's been tough - we've created high expectations for this team - the coaches, the players, the fans, everyone has high expectations."
Several national publications have stated no matter what happens this weekend at the CHA Tournament, the Beavers have secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament field. But Serratore said the BSU coached and players aren't thinking about NCAA at-large at all.
"We're still on our journey - we want to get to the NCAA Tournament and would like to earn a high seed," Serratore reported. "It's all going to depend on how we play this weekend.
"When you start looking at wins/losses over the regular season - you don't just think so much about that you won, but how you won. We talked about it with the team this week - when was the last time we put two really good back-to-back games together? Maybe it was at Western Michigan in January.
"We're aware of that, and also aware that now is the time to really step it up. It's the same formula - pay attention to detail, play with intensity; establish the fore check; put pressure on the defense; get good goaltending and special teams play."
One part of the game on which the Beavers have been concentrating is face offs. "Lately, our face off execution hasn't been very good. Not only winning/losing the face off, but coverage," Serratore reported.
"It comes down to intensity. When you play with intensity, your head and feet are working together. We know that in order to be successful we have to maintain 60 minutes of intensity.
"Going into the weekend, that's our main goal. We've shown when we do that, we can be a very tough team to play against."
The Beavers open CHA Tournament play Friday, facing Niagara in a 6 p.m. start.