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Ruslan Pedan, a freshman, has established himself on the Bemidji State men's hockey team defensive line. (Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer)

BSU's impact import: Russian freshman already a force on the power play

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BEMIDJI — Ruslan Pedan comes from a hockey family.

Well, for the most part.

“My youngest brother is 2 years old, so he’s a bit too young to play,” the Bemidji State freshman joked. “But the older one is 7 years old and he just started.”

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Pedan, a 6-foot defenseman from Moscow, Russia, isn’t the only member of his family who came to North America in order to fulfill his hockey dreams. Pedan’s oldest brother Andrey plays in the New York Islanders’ minor league system.

Ruslan, 19, is a year younger than his brother. Both arrived in North America three years ago, but the two have taken different routes. Andrey was drafted by the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm for two years before jumping to the pro ranks.

Ruslan chose to go to the college route, making stops with the North American Hockey League’s Springfield Junior Blues and Janesville Jets before committing to come to Bemidji this fall.

The Bemidji State coaching staff is glad he did.

Through the first two and a half months of the season, Pedan has been a mainstay on BSU’s top power-play unit, scoring three goals and three assists for the Beavers in 12 games.

BSU head coach Tom Serratore said Pedan’s offensive instincts are much-valued on the Beavers’ special teams units — which are among the best in the nation.

“He’s got a good shot, and good speed,” Serratore said. “Offensively he’s very dangerous. We really like him on the power play because he’s a dual threat. He’s a shooting threat and passing threat. He’s got poise and he’s hard to front.”

BSU junior captain Matt Prapavessis, who has been paired with Pedan on the blue line for most of the season and is almost always out there with him on the man-advantage, appreciates the game Pedan brings to Bemidji.

“He’s really exciting player to watch and he’s fun to play with,” Prapavessis said. “He likes to get involved with the offense. He’s a good skater and he loves to shoot the puck.”

Brothers make adjustment easier

For some Europeans, making the transition to North American college hockey can be difficult — be it the style of play or the language barrier. But Pedan, the first-ever Russian to suit up for the Beavers, has a cheat-sheet — his brother Andrey.

The two came to North America at the same time, so while they were both experiencing new things for the first time, they had each other to call when things got tough.

“He went to Canada same year I came to the U.S.,” Pedan said of Andrey. “It was kind of a big transition for both of us, to be away from Russia and our friends and family. But we’ve been adjusting together.”

Both Pedans play defense, and both have similar two-way styles. Ruslan said he’s able to watch Andrey’s games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (the Islanders’ AHL affiliate) and give him advice. Andrey returns the favor with Ruslan’s BSU games.

“We talk a lot about hockey and kind of help each other out,” Ruslan said. “He’ll help me and tell me what I have to do sometimes, give me some advice. It’s nice to have him over here (in the U.S.).”

Quick development

For a freshman to take such a big role on the power play isn’t always expected, but Prapavessis said Pedan learns quickly.

“He’s pretty well adjusted,” Prapavessis said. “He likes to learn on his own, but I try and tell him to keep it simple every now and then. Don’t try and do too much. It’s going to come but he’s good at playing his game.”

That game manifested itself nicely during BSU’s most recent series.

In Friday night’s game — a 4-1 win over Alaska-Anchorage — Pedan scored an impressive goal in the second period. He picked up the puck in front of BSU goaltender Andrew Walsh, quickly skated it in past the Beavers’ own blue line and fired a little wrist shot between two Seawolf defenders.

Later in the game he nearly scored again on the man-advantage — this time a more conventional slapshot from the point that dinged off the post.

Pedan loves playing on the power play and enjoys being in the offensive zone, but admitted he still needs to work on his defensive game.

“College hockey is way harder (than juniors),” Pedan said. “The pace, and especially how strong the guys are at this level. It’s a huge step. But I’ve just gotta keep getting better and better every day.

“There’s a lot of things you have to work on. For me I think I need to get stronger and I need to get better defensively.”

But that’s OK for the Bemidji State coaching staff — what freshman doesn’t need to improve some aspect of his game?

Serratorre is impressed with how Pedan has adjusted already and expects even more to come.

“He’s got that same type of moxie on 5-on-5,” Serratore said. “He just has to be a little more experienced. He’s getting better and better. He’s going to have a good career and we’re very happy with his development so far. Hopefully that continues on.”

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on Bemidji State but also covering area high schools. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
(218) 333-9772
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