College men's hockey: Heated rival Huntsville returns to Bemidji
The 2008-09 season didn't start well for the Bemidji State men's hockey team as the Beavers were 1-6 after the first seven games.
Starting with the series finale at Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 8, however, the Beavers have been on a roll.
Bemidji State (5-7-0, 2-2-0 CHA) won that game 2-1 in overtime, starting a turnaround in which the Beavers have gone 4-1 and won the last three straight.
Bemidji State hopes to continue the streak this weekend, hosting heated rival Huntsville (2-5-1, 1-2-1 CHA) in a two game series at The Glas.
One of the keys to the BSU turnaround has been the play of sophomore goaltender Matt Dalton. Since taking over the starting role after senior Orlando Alamano was sidelined with an injury, Dalton has been more than solid.
In the last five games Dalton has posted a1.20 goals against average and a sterling .948 save percentage. The 4-1 streak included Dalton's first shut out of the season, a 3-0 win over Michigan Tech last Friday.
"We've had very good goaltending of late," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "In order to win consistently it's something you must have. Dalton has been a rock for us."
The Beavers are coming off their first series sweep of the season, topping WCHA foe Michigan Tech 3-0 and 2-1.
"I thought we were very fortunate to win on Friday," Serratore reported. "Other than getting strong goaltending and being opportunistic on offense, it was not a good win.
"But then we'd rather take an ugly win than a great loss any day."
On Saturday, Tech played with a lot of desperation, Serratore said, and shot the puck from everywhere in an effort to get the offense clicking.
But the Beavers stood up to the challenge.
"We took away the middle and we blocked a lot of shots," Serratore said. "They had a lot of shots, but no Grade A opportunities."
Bemidji State was definitely in a position were the team needed some wins, especially after returning home following a grueling road trip.
"The guys really responded and played solid hockey." Serratore reported.
"We're slowly getting back to where we want to be, but we face another hurdle this weekend."
Serratore describes Huntsville as a team playing with a lot of confidence. "(UAH head coach Danton Cole) has them playing good hockey. They are very systematic and don't give up a lot of goals. Their goaltender Cam Talbot is playing well too, but a lot of that can be attributed to the strong team defense of Huntsville."
The Chargers enter the series after a week off and having played just two games since the Beavers and UAH squared off on Nov. 7-8. In their most recent action the Chargers split against Yale, winning 1-0 before falling 6-2.
The Chargers average scoring 2.0 goals per game, while allowing 2.8. Top scorer has been freshman Cody Campbell (1-6--7) with Matt Sweazey leading the goal scorers with four.
"Huntsville has nearly their entire team back from last year and the experience shows. They're executing well and are very good away from the puck," Serratore reported.
"This is a huge series for both of us. We'll have six league games out of the way after the weekend."
The Beavers enter the series on the three game win streak, but also with injury concerns. Junior forward Tyler Lehrke has been sidelined for four to six weeks because of a shoulder injury sustained Saturday against Tech. In addition, senior Travis Winter will continue to be sidelined with a groin injury. He will hopefully return in early January.
"We're banged up," Serratore reported, "and short-handed with losing our second and third line centers. It hurts our depth up the middle and on special teams -- they are our top two players on the penalty kill.
"Since we have a lot of new faces on the team, we're not as deep as we'd like to be. It'll be interesting to see how we respond to some adversity."
The line up
With the absence of Lehrke and Winter the lines will be juggled a bit for the series opener for the Beavers. Line combinations include:
Tyler Scofield-Matt Read-Ian Lowe
Matt Kinne-Brandon Marino-Matt Francis
Ryan Cramer-Shea Walters-Jamie MacQueen
Emil Bilberg-Chris McKelvie-Darcy Findlay.
Chris Peluso-Graham McManamin
Cody Bostock-Brad Hunt
Tyler Jundt-Kyle Hardwick
Goal: Matt Dalton
--Read leads the Beavers in scoring (3-7--10) with Scofield the top goal scorer with six.
--Dalton (5-4-0) has seen his goals against average drop to 2.56 with his save percentage at .903.
--The Chargers hold a 27-25-3 lead over the Beavers in the all time series that dates back to 1994. Since March 3, 2006, however, the Beavers are 13-2-2 against UAH and have won five of the last six games of the series.
--Tickets for the Beavers/University of North Dakota game at The Glas Jan. 2 are going fast. Those interested in tickets should call 755-2045.