The 2009-10 Bemidji State men's hockey non-conference schedule features some notable games against some of the premier conferences in college hockey.
The Beavers will see two-game series next winter against the University of Minnesota, Minnesota State Mankato, Minnesota-Duluth and Northern Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha - teams that compete in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).
But perhaps the biggest non-conference game that the Beavers and fans will circle is the Nov. 27 game against Miami of Ohio at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. The Redhawks ended Bemidji State's miracle postseason run in the Frozen Four national champion-ship semifinal in April.
In addition to the Beavers' 18-game College Hockey America (CHA) lineup, BSU has 16 non-conference contests which includes a holiday tournament at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Bemidji State, which is coming off its first Frozen Four appearance in program history, will face a number of 2009 national tournament par-ticipants as well as six teams that appeared in the top 20 of the final USCHO.com/CBS College Sports poll.
Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore released the complete schedule on Wednesday.
"We always play a competitive and demanding schedule and this season will be no different," said Serratore, who is entering his ninth sea-son as BSU's head coach. "With six teams that were in the NCAA tournament last spring and six teams that finished in the top 20 in the coun-try, it is going to be a challenge. But we are no strangers to this kind of schedule. It will just be very interesting to see how this team reacts to a schedule this demanding."
Serratore added, "What is unique about the upcoming schedule is the number of CCHA opponents we will face. In the past we've predomi-nantly played a WCHA non-conference schedule, but in 2009-10 we will play eight games versus the CCHA, which will give our fans a chance to see some of the high-end teams in that league."
In addition, Bemidji State will play a 15-game home slate in the team's final full season in the John S. Glas Fieldhouse.
Bemidji State will play a portion of the 2010-2011 season at The Glas before moving to the Bemidji Regional Event Center to end the 2010-2011 season.
The Beavers open its 54th season of play with an Oct. 9-10 series against a familiar foe at The Glas. The United State Air Force Academy, under the direction of former Beaver goaltender and brother of BSU bench boss, Frank Serratore, makes its first appearance on BSU's home ice since the team left the CHA for Atlantic Hockey following the 2005-06 season.
Bemidji State owns an all-time record of 23-8-3 record against the Falcons, which includes a 14-1-2 mark at the Glas. Air Force finished with a 28-11-2 overall record, won a conference championship to reach the NCAA Tournament and came up one game short of the Frozen Four after losing to Vermont in a regional championship.
According to Serratore, opening the season with a formidable opponent in the form of a long-time rival makes sense.
"To have an opponent like Air Force to open the home season in the fall after the excitement that each team had this spring is very fitting," he said.
The Beavers continue non-conference competition Oct. 23-24 when they make their inaugural trip to Marquette, Mich. to face Northern Michigan for the first time in school history.
When paired with the team's first-time meeting with Ohio State Nov. 28, by the time the 2009-10 season comes to an end, the Beavers will have faced 39 of the current 58 NCAA Division I men's ice hockey programs in their first 11 season of play at the Division I level.
The two-time defending CHA champion Beavers remain on the road to open their 11th CHA slate at long-time rival and fellow founding member Alabama-Huntsville Oct. 30-31.
BSU then returns home Nov. 6-7 to face Robert Morris University in a rematch of the epic 2009 CHA Tournament championship game that launched Bemidji State to its historic run through the national tournament.
The series marks the first of three against the Colonials in 2009-10 with four games taking place at the Glas.
Due to the CHA's unbalanced, 18-game league schedule, the Beavers will also clash with Niagara University on six occasions with two se-ries set for BSU's home ice and a pair of games at NU's Dwyer Arena.
"From a conference standpoint, we paid our dues last season having to be on the road for the majority of our league games. This year that is reversed and we have 10 of our 18 CHA games at home." Serratore added, "It will be nice not to have to be on the road as much during league play."
Nov. 14-15 brings a long-awaited matchup with the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Mariucci Arena. The series marks just the seventh and eighth meetings between the Beavers and Gophers and the first meeting since the 2003-04 season.
Bemidji State fans who are looking to make the trip will also take note of the Nov. 14 college football game between the Gophers and South Dakota State in the inaugural season at TCF Bank Stadium, which stands across the street from Mariucci Arena. The game time has yet to be announced but has potential to be a football-hockey doubleheader.
After hosting Huntsville for the only time of the season Nov. 20-21, the team heads west to Grand Forks to participate in University of North Dakota's Subway Holiday Classic Nov. 27-28.
The Beavers open the event with a rematch of last year's Frozen Four matchup with Miami (Ohio) Friday. The following afternoon, BSU will take the ice against Ohio State.
"This schedule is very fan friendly," Serratore said. "Playing at Minnesota and in the tournament at North Dakota versus teams like Ohio State and Miami gives our fans an opportunity to follow the Beavers as we take on some of the country's premier teams in world-class ven-ues."
The Beavers open the month of December with a four-game homestand -- its longest of the upcoming season. Niagara makes their first trip of the season to Bemidji Dec. 4-5 and Mankato comes to town on Dec. 11-12.
Bemidji State then rings in 2010 with a non-conference battle at Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Mich. Jan. 2-3. The rare Saturday-Sunday series marks the Beavers' second trip to Michigan in 2009-10.
On Jan. 15-16, Bemidji State makes its only trip to Niagara before entering into a home-and-home series with Minnesota-Duluth. For the ninth straight season, the Beavers will battle the intrastate rival Bulldogs.
The teams open the Battle for the Blue Ox series at The Glas on Jan. 22 and travel to the DECC on Jan. 23.
The won Babe back last season after sweeping the Beavers in Duluth.
In an unusual part of the schedule, the Beavers will face Robert Morris in four straight games.
BSU hosts the Colonials on Jan. 29-30 and wraps up the four-game set 16 days later at Robert Morris on Feb. 12-13.
BSU closes the home portion of its season by hosting Niagara Feb. 19-20.
On Feb. 26-27, the Beavers wrap up non-conference play at Nebraska-Omaha, which hired long-time North Dakota head coach Dean Blais last week as its new head coach..
The Beavers close the regular season Mar. 5-6 at Huntsville.
The 2010 CHA Tournament is set for Mar. 12-14 at a site to be determined later this summer.
BSU won the CHA Tournament last season for its fifth overall CHA Tourney title.
Bemidji State also won its fourth CHA regular season title in six years last season with a 12-5-1 record in league play.
BSU finished last season 20-16-1 overall, marking its fourth 20-win season in eight years under Serratore and its seventh consecutive season with a record of .500 or better.
Bemidji State went on to defeat Notre Dame and Cornell in the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional.