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BSU men's hockey: Questions linger for Beavers heading into home opener against St. Cloud State

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Coming into the current season the Bemidji State men's hockey team had some major questions to answer.

Who would step up to replace goalie Matt Climie - a four year starter -- and departed defensemen Dave Deterding and Riley Weselowski? Finally, where would the scoring come from this year?

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Four games into the 2008-09 season those questions still remain, as well as a few others.

The Beavers continue the early season schedule today with the home opener, hosting nonconference foe St. Cloud State University (2-2, 0-2 WCHA) in the start of a two game series.

Last weekend the Beavers were swept on the road for the second consecutive time, getting shellacked by Air Force 6-2 and 6-0. The sweep put the Beavers at 0-4 on the year.

Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore was none too pleased when describing the last two losses.

"That's the toughest weekend we've had in a long time," he said. "It was a real eye opener - we were beat in every facet of the game.

"They were better to loose pucks; they were better in the corners; they were better generating offense. We weren't very good defensively - it was not a good weekend at all.

"It's tough for me to say, but hopefully it was a learning experience."

During the winless streak the Beavers have been outscored 21-6, averaging just 1.5 goals per game, while allowing 5.25. BSU has, untypically, also been out-shot by a wide margin - allowing an average of nearly 34 shots, while generating just over 20.

"The bottom line is, when things aren't going well you have to go back to the basics," Serratore reported. "That means be committed to playing defense and don't get out-worked. Then too you have to try and manufacture some offense. It all goes into creating an identity as a team."

So, how does a team go about "manufacturing" offense? The answers came flowing from Serratore.

"Go to the net hard; keep pucks low, always keep moving in the offensive zone and have loose puck intensity," he said. "When times are tough you tend to lean on the big-time players. They have to play that way.

"It's hard to score goals at this level, period. Even when things are going well, a good team averages three goals a game. So manufacturing offense is never an easy thing to do. But, hey, this isn't an easy game."

The Beavers top returning scorers from a year ago - Matt Read, Tyler Scofield, Travis Winter and Brandon Marino - have only three goals and four assists among them over the four games. But then, when a team scores only six goals in four games, nobody is scoring much.

"The way we're looking at things is we have a good bunch of guys on the team," Serratore reported. "They do work hard. We'll run them through practice and then put the ball in their hands, let them do their thing."

The series

The Beavers need to get well and start building an identity quickly or could be facing an 0-6 record. St. Cloud State is a team in the midst of elevating the program to elite status in men's college hockey.

The Huskies are 2-2 on the year and come to BSU smarting after a pair of one goal losses to arch-rival Minnesota last weekend in a home-and-home series. SCSU started the season with a convincing home sweep over Merrimack (7-2, 7-3).

"It's certainly going to be no easier for us this week," said Serratore. "St. Cloud has a top 10 skill team in the country. They have two of the better players in the nation with Garret Roe and Ryan Lasch, plus quality depth.

"We'll have to play on our toes and react much better than we have so far this season against these guys. A little mistake can end up in the back of the net quickly against a team like St. Cloud."

Lasch was named to the Inside College Hockey Preseason All-American team. Roe was named INCH National Player of the Week for his eight point weekend (one goal, seven assists) against Mercyhurst.

SCSU has made two consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament and have advanced to the WCHA Final Five in each of the last three years. They are expecting to make even greater strides this year.

Notes

E The Beavers head into the series owning a 42-35-3 record against St. Cloud. However, since both teams advanced to the NCAA DI ranks the Huskies have a 10-0-0 record against BSU.

E Serratore served as the SCSU assistant coach under Craig Dahl from 1993-98. During that time St. Cloud posted a record of 96-84-15.

E Former Bemidji State defenseman Mike Gibbons (1975-79) is currently in his second year as a St. Cloud assistant coach. He was previously the head coach at east View High School in Apple Valley from 1997-2007.

E SCSU head coach Bob Motzko is in his third year at the helm. He has posted a record of 65-45-16.

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