BSU men's hockey: Time for a change? BSU aims to break through against North Dakota this weekend
For a major rivalry, the Bemidji State-North Dakota men's hockey rivalry has been more than a little one-sided.
Since the first meeting between the teams on Feb. 6, 1970 UND has built a 15-1-1 advantage, including a perfect 4-0 record at The Glas.
The Beavers will try to change that trend this weekend in a home-and-home series with the Fighting Sioux beginning today at The Glas at 7:35 p.m. The two teams play at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks tomorrow at 7:35 p.m.
The Beavers are still searching for their first win against UND since moving to the NCAA Division I level - a stretch in which the Beavers have gone 0-12-1.
Despite the dominance in the win/loss column, the last several games against the neighboring DI teams have been intense and close.
The UND margin of victory in six of the last nine meetings between the teams has been a single goal, including UND's last two trips to Bemidji.
Will this be the year the Beavers break through?
Casual sports fans think it should be the year, pointing to UND's record of 9-10-1 thus far. Plus, North Dakota lost to Michigan Tech in its latest outing, a team the Beavers swept earlier this season.
North Dakota also lost to Massachusetts 3-2 this season, a team Bemidji State beat 4-2 a week ago.
Are the stars aligning in the Beavers favor this year? Could be.
But don't talk to Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore about how the Beavers should win this year solely based on comparisons against common opponents or comparing overall win/loss records.
He'll have none of it.
"We've watched them a lot on tape and I can say that, without question, they are good," Serratore reported. "They have a typical UND team this year -- they are big, skate hard, come at you in waves and finish their checks."
"We were going over tape with the team this week and (BSU assistant coach Bert Gilling) said, 'don't kid yourself -- this is a team that has the capability to be in the Frozen Four this year.' They might be 9-10-1, but they are a lot better than the record indicates."
North Dakota will come into the series smarting from a pair of losses in their last two games, falling to Michigan State and Michigan Tech by identical 2-1 scores at the Great Lake Invitational Dec. 27-28.
As is the case every year, it seems, UND is loaded with talent again, featuring 13 NHL draftees. The Beavers have one.
Despite all the firepower potential, UND is led in scoring this year by a pair of defensemen.
Senior Brad Miller (4-15--19) and junior Chay Genoway (2-17 -- 19) lead North Dakota with 19 points each.
Sophomore Matt Frattin leads the team in goals with eight, while seniors Ryan Martens and Ryan Duncan are right behind with seven each.
As a team North Dakota has averaged 3.10 goals per game, considerably higher than the Beavers 2.44.
In goal, freshman Brad Eidsness has taken over the top spot for UND, appearing in 17 consecutive games and starting the last 11.
He is 6-4-1 with a 2.19 goals against average and .925 saves percentage in his last 12 games.
UND has allowed 2.95 goals per game this year, nearly identical to the Beavers 2.94.
The Beavers are coming off a split at the Ledyard National Bank Classic in Hanover, N.H.
BSU opened with a 4-2 win over UMass, before falling to host Dartmouth 4-2.
"It was a great hockey weekend for us," Serratore reported. "We played well against UMass -- they have a good team. We were opportunistic and got some breaks, but we also played smart and played hard. It was a very good game for us."
"Against Dartmouth, we didn't get going until it was too late. We played very well in the third period, but by then we were down 4-1. It was wide open in the third and we could have gotten back into the game, but their goalie made several big saves.
"We ended with a split for the weekend, but we wanted to win both. We were greedy after Friday night because how tough it's going to be for us these next two series."
The Beavers enter the UND series as healthy as they been all season. Tyler Lehrke is still out with a separated shoulder injury.
But last weekend marked the return of senior Travis Winter, who has been sidelined with a nagging groin injury for most of the year.
"Winter played well," Serratore reported. "Is he 100 percent? No, he may not be the rest of the year. But he was getting off shots and asserting himself, playing with more confidence."
The Beavers are bracing for a stiff challenge this weekend.
"As always a key for us is going to be getting the first goal, scoring first," Serratore reported. "Then, UND is a team that plays in spurts. When they come at us through two or three very strong shifts, we can't allow them to get us back on our heels. When that happens you get flat-footed and end up spending a lot of time in the defensive zone. We don't want to do that."
Serratore also said the Beavers will need to be very disciplined with the puck. "We simply can't afford to turnover the puck over numerous times against a team like UND," he said. "We also have to get the puck deep and make good line changes."
The Beavers continue to struggle offensively and in finding a consistent secondary scoring threat.
"We keep talking to the guys about that if other parts of the game like backchecking, offensive zone movement and taking care of the puck are going well, that will generate more shots. More shots, hopefully, translate to more quality scoring chances," Serratore said.
In the end, Serratore said the last two games with UND at The Glas have been close, intense and exciting games (UND won 2-1 in 2005 and 3-2 in 2007).
"We're hoping tonight's game will be the same way."
E Serratore reported Bemidji State has released some student tickets for sale to the general public for tonight's game. Call the ticket office at 755-2045 or come to The Glas early to check on tickets. There are limited numbers available.
E Matt Read continues to lead the Beavers in scoring with five goals and eight assists for 13 points. Senior Tyler Scofield leads in goals with six.
E Senior defenseman Cody Bostock enters the series on a four game scoring streak, the longest on the team.