BSU men's hockey team dives back into schedule at Minnesota-Duluth
The Bemidji State men's hockey team continues on its tough non-conference schedule this weekend, facing the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs at the DECC.
Games today and Saturday are scheduled for a 7:07 p.m. start.
The Beavers (8-10-0, 4-2-0 CHA) are coming off a pair of gut-wrenching losses to rival North Dakota, falling 4-3 at The Glas before being defeated by the same score in overtime at Ralph Engelstad Arena the next night.
"I'm still very disappointed about that Saturday night game in Grand Forks," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "We battled hard to come back and tie the game in the third period. Then to lose on a UND power play goal in overtime ...well, it was a tough way to lose.
"After we tied the game I didn't see a loss coming. It was devastating because we're tired of those one goal losses and we're wondering when we'll catch a break against those guys.
"Then again, hats off to UND; they are the best team we've played this year. But the overtime loss still stung."
Both Bemidji State and UMD (9-7-6, 5-6-5 WCHA) enter the series winless in their last three games. Prior to being swept by UND, the Beavers fell to Dartmouth. UMD was swept by St. Cloud State last weekend and fell to top-ranked Notre Dame the previous weekend.
"This is a big series for both teams," Serratore reported.
"We're on a bit of a losing streak and so are they. For UMD this is also a big series because of the PairWise rankings -- a loss would put them in a pinch, no doubt."
Serratore reported the Bulldogs feature all the ingredients necessary to make a strong second half of the season run.
"UMD has experienced a little bump in the road recently," he said, "but prior to that they had been playing pretty good hockey and were fairly consistent.
"They have good goaltending, a lot of talent and a solid bunch of veterans. We know we'll be stepping into a hornet's nest. But we're excited to play them; hopefully our guys will respond to the challenge."
A key for the Beavers, Serratore reported, will be how they play against the vaunted UMD power play. The Bulldogs have scored 62 goals this year with 30 of those coming off the power play. That's a 22 percent efficiency rate, good for fifth in the nation.
"UMD has the best power play we will see," Serratore said. "They've had at least one power play goal in 19 games this year. How well our penalty kill unit plays against them will be a major key to the series for us."
UMD is led offensively by sophomore forward Justin Fontaine with 30 points on 11 goals and 19 assists. Nine of his goals have come on the power play.
"Fontaine is a very talented kid who's having a break out type year," Serratore reported. "We'll have to be very aware of him every shift and especially when we're on the penalty kill."
Senior center MacGregor Sharp is next on the Bulldogs in scoring with nine goals and 12 assists.
Junior goalie Alex Stalock returns to anchor the UMD defense. He currently sports a record of 9-7-6 with a .920 save percentage and 2.27 goals against average.
Beavers ready for stretch run
Weeks off will be a thing of the past for the Beavers beginning with this weekend's action. The series will begin a stretch of nine straight weekends of play, culminating in the CHA Tournament in Bemidji in mid-March.
Serratore said the Beavers are excited to have everyone back in the line up for the first time in weeks. "Not everyone is 100 percent," he said, "but we have everyone back."
That includes forward Tyler Lehrke who's missed the last six games due to a shoulder injury.
"Having everyone back in practice and playing games is a good deal," Serratore said, "and gives us a good feeling about making a good stretch run."
The Beavers have struggled to generate offense and find the back of the net for the most of the season, averaging just 2.5 goals and 23 shots per game. Getting some consistent scoring beyond first liners Matt Read (6-11--17) and Tyler Scofield (8-6--4) has been a concern.
However, Serratore said some players have stepped up and shown they are capable of picking up some of the secondary scoring slack.
"Ryan Cramer has been playing much better lately," Serratore reported. "Also freshman Shea Walters has elevated his game and freshman Ben Kinne has come off the break with fresh legs.
"All of them have the capability of making an impact for us down the stretch. We'll see what happens. It's good to know we have people who can do it."
It's the Beavers' hope to come out of the series with a split at least.
"Hopefully, by now the guys realize we need 60 minutes of intensity in order to be successful, especially against these WCHA teams. We can't have any lapses like we did in both second periods against UND.
"If the boys respond, I like our chances down the stretch."