Bemidji State men's hockey: Beavers on the road at rival Robert Morris this weekend
The road to a College Hockey America regular season championship for Bemidji State travels through Pittsburgh this week as the Beavers (9-13-0, 5-3-0 CHA) hit the road to face the Robert Morris Colonials (5-12-4, 1-3-2 CHA).
The two teams will get to know each other very well in a short amount of time as BSU and Robert Morris will play four times in a span of three weeks in Pennsylvania, then conclude the regular season with yet another series March 6-7 in Bemidji.
"We'll be playing four games at Robert Morris in a short amount of time," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "How we play them on the road will determine how we end up finishing in the CHA standings.
'In the past we've done a good job of consistently getting conference points on the road. Hopefully we can keep it up."
Games today and Saturday from the Island Sports Center are scheduled for a 6:35 p.m. start (CST).
The Beavers are coming off a series split with CHA rival Niagara last weekend.
The visiting Purple Eagles won the opener 4-3 before the Beavers claimed the series finale 3-1.
"I thought we had a pretty good effort on Friday," Serratore said. "We were a little rough in the opening period and then fell behind by two early in the second. From there on we played pretty well and were able to tie it 3-3."
The Beavers made some defensive adjustments on Saturday and came up with a big win. "We played with a little desperation," Serratore reported, "and also took advantage of our scoring opportunities.
"In the end the guys were able to win a game we figured we had to win. That was a good sign."
The Colonials are coming off perhaps their best stretch of hockey of the season, splitting with Quinnipiac last weekend before extending top 10 nationally ranked Princeton to the limit Monday in a 2-1 loss.
"RMU is a team that I'm very concerned about," Serratore reported. "They are much better than their record indicates. They've defeated some tough teams this year like Lake Superior State, Ferris State and Quinnipiac. They're playing very well at home and have got it going right now."
Serratore reported RMU features good overall team speed and is the fastest team in the CHA. "They also have a little moxie on the blue line," he said.
The Colonials picked up a pair of defenders from the defunct Wayne State program who have made an immediate impact in sophomore Brock Meadows and senior Matt Krug. They have meshed well with veterans junior Dave Cowan and sophomore Denny Urban to form a solid nucleus.
Offensively, the Colonials senior forward Chris Margott (11-14--25) and sophomore Nathan Longpre (7-17--24) sit first and second in the CHA in scoring.
The Colonials also feature the best power play (19.5 percent) and penalty kill (83.9 percent) in the CHA.
RMU averages scoring 2.5 goals a game, while allowing 3.6. Therein lies a big reason why the Colonials only have five wins overall to this point in the season -- inconsistent goaltending.
Wes Russell has seen the majority of time in net for RMU and currently stands with a 5-10-3 record. He features 3.39 goals against average and .893 save percentage.
"That's about the only area where RMU has struggled this year," Serratore reported, "with inconsistent goaltending at times."
The Beavers hope to exploit the RMU defense if at all possible this weekend. "We realize how important points are now," Serratore reported. "We understand that, as does every other team. Every game is a must win game.
"There's a small margin for error in NCAA DI hockey. It's a whole lot easier losing a one goal game than winning by a goal. In order to win those close games you have to get strong goaltending, execute, focus and pay attention to detail. That's very important."
The task for the Beavers will be tougher this weekend with the loss of senior forward Tyler Scofield from the line up. Serratore reported Scofield suffered a neck injury in the Saturday victory over Niagara and will be out this weekend.
It will be a tough loss for the Beavers' offense as Scofield has been tough the last four weeks. In the last eight games Scofield as amassed 11 points on four goals and seven assists to lead the Beavers
The line up
With Scofield out there has been some corresponding line juggling for BSU. The lines:
Matt Francis-Matt Read-Emil Bilberg
Jamie MacQueen-Travis Winter-Tyler Lehrke
Ben Kinne-Shea Walters-Ryan Cramer
Ian Lowe-Chris McKelvie-Brandon Marino
Graham McManamin-Chris Peluso
Cody Bostock-Brad Hunt
Kyle Hardwick-Ryan Adams
Goal: Matt Dalton
E Sophomore Matt Read continues to lead BSU in scoring on seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points. Scofield leads the team in goals with 10 and is second in scoring with 19 points. Linemate Matt Francis in fifth on the team in scoring with seven goals and four assists for 11 points.
E The first line of Read, Scofield and Francis have accounted for 24 of the team's 55 goals (44 percent) this season.
E Freshman Brad Hunt is third overall on the team in scoring and leads all BSU defenders with five goals and 11 assists for 16 points. Senior Cody Bostock is next at 3-8--11.
E Sophomore goaltender Matt Dalton has seen the majority of action for the Beavers and currently stands at 9-8-0 with a 2.62 goals against average and .906 goals against average.