CHA men's hockey Tournament: Beavers face Huntsville in Friday night semifinal
A second consecutive College Hockey America title safely tucked away, the Bemidji State men's hockey team begins a bigger quest today -- a league tourney title and a bid in the NCAA Tournament.
The top seeded Beavers are slated to face long time rival Alabama-Huntsville in the second semifinal of the CHA Tournament today, starting at 7 p.m. at the John Glas Fieldhouse.
Tournament action is set to begin at 2 p.m. as second seed Niagara faces third seed Robert Morris.
The losers of today's openers will face off in the third place game Saturday at 2 p.m. with the final set for 7 p.m.
Playing as the top seed at home against a team the Beavers went 5-1-0 against this year, one would think Bemidji State would enter today's game full of confidence.
"Alabama-Huntsville is a team I'm very concerned about," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "They are difficult to match up against and very difficult to play against.
"When you look at the scores of the games we've played this year, there were a couple in December we won that easily could have gone the other way."
The games played in Bemidji December 5-6 ended 3-1 and 4-2 in favor of Bemidji State.
In the first, all the scoring took place in the third period. The Beavers scored three straight to open the third, before UAH got one late. The Chargers held a 25-19 shot advantage in the game.
In the second, the Beavers took a 1-0 first period lead, only to have the Chargers' Joey Koudys scored at 14:44 of the first and 13:56 of the second to go ahead 2-1.
BSU freshman Shea Walters scored less than two minutes into the third to tie the game at 2-2 and Emil Bilberg got the game winner at 4:50 of the third. Matt Francis scored an empty netter to clinch the win.
"We found a way to win both those games, but each one was a dog fight," Serratore reported. "We expect the same type of game today."
The Chargers (5-19-4, 3-11-4 CHA) are coming off a 2-2 OT tie last Friday at Niagara, followed by a 6-3 loss. Head coach Danton Cole said he was pleased with how hard to Chargers worked in both games.
"Just looking at the scores one could assume that it wasn't the greatest weekend for us," he said. "I didn't see it that way. We had our chances to win Friday and there were a couple of strange bounce goals Saturday that hurt us. We did make a couple of big mistakes that cost us Saturday and that will happen against a high powered offense like Niagara."
The Chargers ended the regular season scoring 2.2 goals per game, while allowing 3.4. UAH struggled on the power play, ending at .150. The penalty kill ended at .790.
UAH was led offensively by Matt Sweazey with 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points. Freshman Cody Campbell was next at 7-14--21. Andrew Coburn was second in goals with nine.
Cameron Talbot and Blake MacNicol split time in net for the Chargers, with Talbot seeing the majority of the action. He ended with a record of 2-14-3 on a 2.95 goals against average and .907 save percentage.
The Beavers (16-15-1, 12-5-1 CHA) are coming off a highly emotional weekend against Robert Morris that saw BSU clinch sole possession of the CHA regular season title. RMU won the opener at The Glas 3-2 with BSU taking the regular season finale 6-4.
"It was a very difficult series for us," Serratore reported. "Robert Morris is looking like the best team in the league right now. They came very close to getting a late season sweep at The Glas and everyone knows how difficult that can be (BSU lost two league games at home the entire season).
"They were the better team Friday night. On Saturday, it was a frantic game, the kind of game where the coaches feel like they have little control. Our special teams came through (two power play and three short-handed goals) and that was the difference."
Entering the tournament Serratore reported he likes the way the Beavers have been playing the last month of the season. "We're a puck pursuit team that wants to be difficult to play against," he said. "We've played that way pretty consistently the last few weeks; plus we've had good goaltending and strong special teams play."
The Beavers ended with a league leading .213 power play, while holding the opponents to a .159 average.
Offensively, the Beavers ended with 10 players scoring in double figures. Sophomore Matt Read paced the squad with 30 points on nine goals and 21 assists. Right behind were goal scoring leader Tyler Scofield (17-12--29) and freshman defender Brad Hunt (9-20--29). Senior Matt Francis also topped the 20 point mark (11-9--20).
Matt Dalton had a break out second year in goal, ending 15-10-1. He featured a 2.31 goals against average and .915 save percentage.
"In a one game and out tournament like this you can't control a lot of what goes on," Serratore reported. "I'm like most coaches and am nervous about the opposition. I feel we're ready and prepared; I'm happy with the way we've been playing, but I'm still nervous.
"I know we'll have to play very well to win, as will all the other teams. When you get to this time of year, that's what it's all about."
The line up
Bemidji State will be without the services of junior defenseman Graham McManamin for the tournament. He has gone back to his home in Anchorage, Alaska due to a family emergency.
Tyler Scofield-Matt Read-Matt Francis
Jamie MacQueen-Travis Winter-Emil Bilberg
Ben Kinne-Shea Walters-Tyler Lehrke
Ian Lowe-Chris McKelvie-Brandon Marino
Brad Hunt-Cody Bostock
Chris Peluso-Tyler Jundt
Ryan Adams-Kyle Hardwick