BEMIDJI – Jordan George wasn't exactly slumping coming into last weekend’s series against Colorado College – the Bemidji State senior forward had three assists playing on BSU’s top line.
But his first-period goal against CC last Friday night – a high slot rebound following a shot from linemate Ben Kinne – gave the Madison, Wis., native some relief. Not only was it his first goal of the year, but it was the 50th of his career.
“It’s a big monkey off the back, it being my first goal of the year and my 50th,” he said. “It’s a big accomplishment, but I’ve got to give credit to all the guys I’ve been playing with the past four years. It’s not just an individual award, it a lot of those guys contributing to it.”
Despite George’s goal, Colorado College went on to win and swept the Beavers in both games.
Now the Beavers (2-3-1, 1-2-1 WCHA) will look to for George to help them bounce back with another Western Collegiate Hockey Association foe this weekend at the Sanford Center when Michigan Tech (2-6, 1-5 WCHA) comes to town. The puck drops at 7:37 p.m. tonight and 7:07 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re certainly hoping that number grows, because we need him to score,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said of George’s milestone. “Fifty goals. A lot of guys would love to have 50 points, much less 50 goals, so it’s just a testament to how good of a hockey player he is and the success he’s had at Bemidji State his first three years.”
George and Kinne have been linemates for the past three years and Kinne, the captain, says George is the most talented player on the team.
“He’s pretty much our most skilled player,” Kinne said. “You can see that on the ice. He’s exciting. Every time he touches the puck fans get on their feet because they know something good’s going to happen.”
George, Kinne and freshman Cory Ward have been solid together on the Beavers’ top line, combining for 12 points. Both Kinne and George mentioned that they have a special chemistry together – one of the reasons why they’ve been so good this year, and why Ward has been able to get up to speed so quickly.
“We’re probably the most experienced line when it comes to points,” Kinne said. “He has over 100 (for his career), I have 60 or something, but the chemistry we have, we’re relied upon to get the puck in the net for our team.
“Cory has stepped in and has kept our pace of play up. He’s starting to catch up with us a little bit and blend in with our chemistry. So once he figures out where to be at the right spots in the right time.”
Although BSU’s top line has been its most productive, it isn’t by much. The Beavers have gotten production out of all four; for instance, the No. 3 line of David Boehm, Brance Orban and Jeff Jubinville has tallied nine points.
“Any line can score,” Serratore said. “I don’t want to use the word depth, but balance. I feel like our lines are balanced right now. I think some of our players have emerged who you might not have expected and we’re not reliant on any particular line.”
They’ll need to use all four of those lines this weekend against the Huskies, who are similarly balanced but have experienced some bad luck. After upsetting then-No. 1 Minnesota Oct. 19 in Houghton, Mich., the Huskies have lost five straight games, all to conference foes.
“I know things haven’t started off well for them in the league but the way they’ve played so far, they’ve played some good hockey and still lost,” Serratore said of Michigan Tech. “They have four lines that can score consistently, and they have some veterans. They have a lot of confidence from last year’s team.”
The Huskies surprised many in the WCHA last season, finishing eighth under new head coach Mel Peterson. They were picked to finish 12th in the league.
This year they’ve struggled in the early going, getting swept by Denver and Nebraska-Omaha after that initial win over the Gophers.
The Huskies have actually scored more goals (24) than the Beavers (16). They have three players – Blake Pielta, Dennis Rix and Alex Petan – with three or more goals. No BSU player has more than two. But Tech has also given up 80 goals, including eight on the penalty kill.
The Huskies’ power-play unit is decent – 7-for-38 (18.4 percent), but the Beavers may be breathing a sigh of relief after facing Colorado College last week. The Tigers are 8-for-33 (24.2 percent).
BSU’s penalty kill, one of the best in the country at 18-for-21 (85.7) did something rare against CC last Saturday – it gave up two goals in one game.
However, BSU was also able to tally two power play goals against the Tigers. The Beavers had scored just one going into that series, so they hope to gain some confidence on the man-advantage down the stretch.
“Every time your power play can get one in a game it’s a boost,” George said. “And special teams are a big part of college hockey. You score a power play goal and you’re in good shape. With our penalty kill, we’re pretty much lights out so it helps us a lot to get power play going.”
With both teams needing some points, this series is crucial for both teams.
“They have great depth, and balance, just like us,” Serratore said. “These games will be tight. We need a win, they need a win. It’s going to be interesting to see who can get the points.”