Bemidji State men's hockey takes the long road for final series
The longest road trip of the season in terms of distance and logistics is at hand as the Bemidji State hockey team heads north this weekend to take on Alaska-Anchorage.
"It is a long trip through three different time zones," said BSU coach Tom Serratore. "But it's another weekend on our schedule and you have to prepare for these games the same way you do for all of the others."
Recent losses at Minnesota and at home against Wisconsin have eliminated any possibility of the Beavers hosting a first-round WCHA playoff series. Bemidji State enters the final series of the regular season 9-14-3 against conference opponents and its 21 points puts BSU 10th in the 12-team league.
Within reach, however, is Wisconsin which owns ninth with 22 points. If the Beavers can take care of business in Anchorage and Wisconsin falters this weekend at Minnesota, Bemidji State could overtake the Badgers and earn the ninth seed.
"It's tough to have energy in Alaska (because of the travel distance) but we're excited to go there," Serratore said. "We want to be playing good hockey going into the playoffs and this series sets the table for the following weekend.
"I'm not happy with our weekend against Wisconsin (a pair of 4-2 losses at the Sanford Center). We didn't need to be swept and this puts added pressure on us this weekend," the coach added.
Anchorage is last in the standings with 11 points and no matter what happens against the Beavers the Seawolves are destined to remain in the cellar. Mankato is 11th and trails BSU by three points.
On paper Bemidji State should be able to collect points this weekend, but Serratore knows that Anchorage will not be in a giving mood.
"Anchorage defends very hard," he said. "The bottom line is you better be good on the power play. They play man on man and don't give up a lot of space. We have to be sharp and you have to dump your pucks well."
Scoring goals has been a concern. In the past four games the Beavers have managed only five goals and finding ways to put the puck in the net is key if Bemidji State harbors any hopes of advancing deep into the postseason.
"The biggest difficulty we've had the last two weeks is scoring goals," Serratore said. "If you don't hit that magic number of three goals a game you are going to struggle. And there is a lot of pressure defensively."
Jordan George leads the offense with 16 goals and 27 points. Shea Walters and Ben Kinne each have 10 goals but no other Beaver has reached double figures.
Brad Hunt's 19 assists are team-high and his 24 points are second on the roster. Also contributing at least 15 points are Walters (10-13-23), Kinne (10-10-20), Aaron McLeod (8-11-19), Brance Orban (7-11-18) and Illo Radoslav (7-8-15).
Dan Bakala has a 2.57 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 24 starts. Andrew Walsh has seen action in 11 games and has compiled a 2.37 GAA and a .915 save percentage.