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Bemidji State's Tyler Scofield leads the Beavers into the Von Braun Center this weekend for the first conference series of the season against Alabama-Huntsville. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

BSU men's hockey team begins conference play at Huntsville

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BSU men's hockey team begins conference play at Huntsville
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A grueling six game non conference schedule and a pair of exhibition games now behind it, the Bemidji State men's hockey team next looks to conference action.

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The Beavers begin College Hockey America play tonight, kicking off a two-game series against intense rival University of Alabama-Huntsville. Both games are scheduled to start at 6:05 p.m. CST from the Von Braun Center.

BSU head coach Tom Serratore said he's obviously not happy with the Beaver's 1-5 record.

"As a coach you have high expectations," he said. "In realize we had a tough schedule, playing three very strong teams - two of those on the road. However, we were hoping for a 3-3 record or even 2-4. The 1-5 start is disappointing, mainly because of how we played and how we competed at Air Force. That was as bad a weekend as we've had here in a long time."

Serratore was happy with how the tram responded the next weekend, splitting a pair of games against St. Cloud State - who was ranked 15th nationally at the time. The Beavers followed up with a pair of convincing exhibition victories over the University of Manitoba, winning 7-0 and 4-2.

"Even though the games with Manitoba didn't officially count, we're looking at it like we've won three of our last four games," Serratore reported. "Hopefully, we are a better team than we were three weeks ago. We want to keep moving forward and believe we are."

Since the last four games were all at home, the test now is to see how the Beavers play on the road. "It was great being at home," said Serratore. "It's amazing how much easier things are for you when playing at home. But, looking at the schedule, the rest of the way we have 13 games at home and 19 on the road. The success of our season is going to come down to how well we play on the road."

It all starts today with the Beavers making their most grueling trip of the season, to Huntsville. An odd combination of bus and plane trips, getting to Huntsville is an adventure every year. What better way to indoctrinate a young team?

Add to the travel difficulties the fact that the Chargers are a much improved hockey team this season. After finishing 6-21-4 and 3-13-4 in the CHA last season, UAB raised some eyebrows nationally in its season opening series, traveling to Colorado College. Although the Chargers lost both games, they were right in the middle of the battle in both -falling 1-0 in the opener and 5-3 with an open net goal in the second.

After an exhibition game against a club team from Tennessee, that UAB won 13-0, the Chargers traveled to Robert Morris and came away with a 3-3 tie and a 3-2 loss. The Chargers current record of 0-3-1 may be even more deceiving than the Beavers 1-5 mark.

"Huntsville is a very good team right now," Serratore reported. "They are much improved over last year. The team seems to be much more comfortable with (second year head coach) Danton Cole.

"In talking with the coaches from Colorado College and Robert Morris, plus watching UAB on film, they are playing tough. They appear to be very well coached and very systematic. They are not an easy team to play against - they always seem to be in the right spot and pressure you constantly. They use the stick well and defend well."

The Chargers return a very strong nucleus of players from last year, all who benefited from extensive playing time last season. The list includes senior forwards Josh Murray, Joe Federoff and Matt Sweazey and junior forwards Cale Tanaka and Tom Train. The defense is anchored by senior Scott Kalinchuck and junior Brandon Roshko.

Cameron Talbot (2.29 GAA, .940 save percentage) and Blake McNicol (4.04, .900) have split duties in net thus far for the Chargers - both more than capable in the early going.

The Huntsville penalty kill has been particularly effective, holding the opponents to four goals in 26 opportunities (..154).

"We're excited to go there and play Huntsville," Serratore reported. "It's always fun to play there - they are out big rival in the league."

Serratore believes the Beavers are heading south to face a tough conference test at the right time. The Beavers broke out for 11 goals in the exhibitions against Manitoba and also scored seven in the St, Cloud series.

"We have scored some goals of late, which has been a bit comforting to the coaching staff," he said. "We've really picked up our play down low and in the offensive zone as a whole.

"Our power play has also been good as of late. That something that seems to go in cycles over the course of a season and we're hopefully now on the upside. But we're also playing on the road for the first time in a while and we'll see hat happens.

"We're expecting a good series."

Notes

E The BSU/AH rivalry started March 11, 1994. The Chargers hold a 26-24-3 all-time series lead. However, since March 3, 2006 the Beavers have gone on a 12-1-2 run and enter the series on a six game unbeaten streak against Chargers (5-0-1).

E Senior forward Tyler Scofield has gone to battle against the Chargers 14 times and has recorded tremendous success. Scofield has piled up nine goals and seven assists for 16 points and is a plus-11.

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