Bemidji State men's hockey faces Colorado College in rematch
The Bemidji State men's hockey team remembers Colorado College forward Jaden Schwartz well.
Team Canada's World Junior Tournament captain was a game breaker in Colorado College's sweep against the Beavers back in October and the teams meet in a rematch this weekend (Friday 7:37 p.m., Saturday 7:07 p.m.) at the Sanford Center.
"He did tear us apart in Colorado and we're going to want to take him serious when he's out there," BSU defenseman Matt Prapavessis said. "We need to take away his time and space. But he is a threat every time he's on the ice, so we have to be aware of him."
Schwartz had two goals and two assists in that series to open the WCHA season, which included a game-winner in Friday's 3-1 Tigers win and an assist on Rylan Schwartz's game-winning goal Saturday to rally the Tigers to a 6-4 victory.
No. 10 Colorado College (15-9-2, 12-7-1 WCHA) enters the series as a MacNaughton Cup contender and earned three standings points in last weekend's home-and-home series against rival Denver.
"They are a team that has tremendous speed, they have an excellent power play and are just flat out hard to play against," BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. "They are playing good hockey at this time of the year and they have a lot at stake, just like we do."
Bemidji State (13-12-3, 7-10-3 WCHA) is coming off a three-point weekend at Nebraska-Omaha on Friday's 1-1 tie and Saturday's 6-4 win. The series put a stop to BSU's road struggles and moved the Beavers' road record to 4-8-2 this season.
"The road's been tough on us this year and I thought they guys competed well last weekend," Serratore said. "We competed hard, we made plays, we defended hard. I just thought our overall game was very good. It was a situation where our backs were against the wall. We needed some points if we wanted to make a jump in the standings."
The Beavers are in ninth place alone with 17 points and one point ahead of Wisconsin. The Badgers are idle this weekend.
"It was huge to get those three points," Prapavessis said. "We would have loved to get four points, but we got three and passed Wisconsin in the standings. That's huge. We're going to take it one step at a time and keep climbing the ladder. These last eight games are going to be huge to see the layout for playoffs."
Ahead of Bemidji State in eighth place is St. Cloud State with 21 points and the Huskies are idle this weekend. Michigan Tech, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota are tied for fifth place at 22 points.
BSU senior goalie Dan Bakala has started in five of Bemidji State's last seven games and has regained some of his consistency. He is 3-1-1 in that span with a .941 save percentage, and allowed four goals through the first five periods of play against Omaha last weekend.
Senior captain Ben Kinne has two goals and three assists over the last five games to lead all BSU players in scoring over the same span. He scored the game-winning goal on the power play in the win at Omaha.
The Beavers scored two goals on the power play in the third period against UNO, which ended a drought of 11 straight scoreless power plays dating back to Jan. 14.
"I'm pretty confident with our power play, we have good personality and versatility with some of our guys," Serratore said. "We feel like we can throw a couple of different power plays at people. We don't feel like we're one-dimensional in our thinking and execution."
Special teams will be a matchup to watch this weekend as Colorado College brings the No. 2 ranked power play in WCHA play (23.1 percent) into the series and Bemidji State brings in the No. 2 ranked penalty kill in the WCHA (85.2 percent). BSU's 85 percent overall kill rate ranks No. 10 in the country.
Tigers starting goalie Josh Thorimbert leads the WCHA in save percentage (.931) but was injured in last Saturday's 2-2 tie against Denver and is not expected to play this weekend. That will put Joe Howe in goal, who stopped 36 of the 37 shots he faced against BSU in October including all 11 in a third-period relief appearance in BSU's Saturday night loss.
BSU seniors Darcy Findlay, Drew Fisher and Jamie MacQueen were announced as recipients of the WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award on Thursday.
All three are receiving the award for the second straight year.
Students must have one year of residency prior to the current academic year and must also have a grade-point average of at least 3.50 on a 4.0 scale for the previous two semesters or three quarters. Students may qualify if the overall GPA is at least 3.50 for all terms at the present institution.