BEMIDJI – The Bemidji State hockey team finished the first half of the 2012-13 season on a high.
Now, back from holiday break, the Beavers hope to ring in the New Year a little early with a strong showing at the Ledyard National Bank Tournament in Hanover, N.H.
The Beavers (5-8-3, 4-7-3 WCHA) take on Massachusetts at 3 p.m. today in the first of two tournament semifinals. A matchup with either No. 2 New Hampshire or No. 10 Dartmouth awaits on Monday – New Years’ Eve.
The Beavers hope to be celebrating early – and not just because they’re playing on the East Coast for the first time in four years.
“We just have to keep playing our game and I think we can win,” BSU junior forward Jeff Jubinville said. “Anyone can win in college hockey, but we’re on a high right now. It felt good to get a couple good games before the break. […] Morale’s really good, so it will be fun to get in this tournament here and play a few teams that we don’t see a lot.”
The Beavers went 2-1-1 in their last four games of the first half of the season, most recently a 5-1 drubbing of then No. 10-ranked Denver to help them earn three out of four points.
They’re hoping to ride that momentum into New Hampshire, where they’ll be facing a decent UMass team and a ranked team to be determined.
BSU head coach Tom Serratore doesn’t think playing UMass, Dartmouth or New Hampshire will be much different than the Beavers’ WCHA schedule – all three teams are tough.
“We knew it would be a good tournament when we said we were going to play in it a couple years back,” Serratore said. “And these teams aren’t strangers to us from the standpoint that in the WCHA every weekend you’re playing somebody that’s a ranked team. So we’re used to that.
“This weekend’s not going to be any different. UNH is second in the country, UMass is middle of the pack in hockey east and Dartmouth obviously is ranked very high. It’s going to be a great tournament.”
BSU has played in this tournament once before, back in 2008, and went 1-1-0 with a win against UMass before falling to Dartmouth in the finals.
This season, Beavers once again take on UMass in a battle of two teams trending in opposite directions. The Minutemen (5-9-2) entered the holiday break on a three-game losing streak, including a sweep by No. 20 Colgate and a loss to No. 15 Yale.
“We’re playing different style of teams,” said senior forward David Boehm, who played for UMass for a season before transferring to BSU in 2010. “They like to run and gun and they play really fast. They should be well coached, and they’re a good team. I think like every game, we’re going to have to outwork them and out muscle them if we want to win.”
The Minutemen do have some nice wins under their belt – including a 2-1 overtime upset of New Hampshire back in November. But since then, they’ve only managed one win, against Northeastern Dec. 1.
Branden Gracel leads UMass in scoring with 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists), including two goals in the Minutemen’s sweep by Colgate. Three other Minutemen (Rocco Carzo, Steven Guzzo and Conor Allen) have also reached double-digits in points this season.
Both UMass and BSU have similar scoring numbers – Massachusetts is 33rd in the country in scoring while BSU is 38th with 2.44 – so this could be a low-scoring, defensive battle.
“We have to make sure we’re playing solid hockey,” Serratore said. “We have to play well defensively, which we’ve been doing the past couple weekends and was important for us.”
New goaltender joins team
Bemidji State needed a new goaltender. Reid Mimmack was ready to step in right away.
The Brainerd native began practicing with the team Thursday and will be in uniform for today’s game.
The Beavers found themselves needing a third goalie when Fabian Sivnert left school at the end of this semester. BSU head coach Tom Serratore told the Brainerd Dispatch he was excited to land a local product in Mimmack.
“We talked to 3-4 goalies to see if they were interested in coming here,” Serratore told the paper. “The first one we talked to was Reid. He fits the bill. He’s a good athlete, has good size, we’re excited to bring him in. And, he’s a local product.”
Mimmack played for three years in the North American Hockey League, most recently with the Jamestown (N.Y.) Ironmen.
This year he posted a 17-5-1 record in 1,335 minutes this season for Jamestown. He made 574 saves with a .917 save percentage and 2.34 goals-against average. He left the Ironmen tied for second in the league with 17 victories.