The memory of the Bemidji State/Robert Morris College Hockey America playoff championship game at the John Glas Fieldhouse remains vivid for many area hockey fans.
The game was a classic that ended with BSU winning in overtime and going on a historical run to the NCAA Frozen Four.
The two teams will renew their CHA rivalry tonight as the Beavers host the Colonials in a league series at The Glas. Game time is set for 7:35 p.m. Friday and 7:05 p.m. Saturday.
The Beavers (5-0-1, 2-0-0 CHA), currently ranked 11th nationally, enter the series looking to keep their unblemished record intact. But Robert Morris (2-4-0, 0-0-0 CHA) is no stranger to handling nationally ranked teams this season, defeating Alaska-Anchorage and Quinnipiac thus far when both teams were among the nation's top 20 teams.
While the Beavers are coming off a pair of 2-1 overtime road victories over University of Alabama-Huntsville, RMU was involved in a strange series at home with Quinnipiac. The visitors blanked RMU in the opener, dominating 5-0. The Colonials turned the tables the next night, winning 8-5 despite allowing 63 shots on net.
"On Saturday we just competed very hard," said RMU head coach Derek Schooley. "We worked hard; we were resilient. We got pucks in deep and kept our game very simple. And we got a performance from Nathan Longpre that was nothing short of heroic."
The junior forward Longpre, a 2008 CHA All-First Team selection, had struggled offensively in the Colonials first five games, failing to score a goal. But he broke out in the 8-5 win, scoring four goals and adding an assist. Longpre currently leads the team in scoring with four goals and five assists for nine points.
Junior defender Denny Urban is also a marquee-type player for the Colonials. He was named to the Preseason All-CHA team after recording four goals and 23 assists last season.
In the early going this year, the Colonials have scored 3.3 goals per game, while allowing 4.3. RMU has also been greatly outshot this year, allowing 47 while taking just short of 25.
Brooks Ostegard (1-3-0, 4.58 gaa, .886 save percentage) and Eric Levine (1-1-0, 3.60, .932) have split time in net for RMU with Ostegard making four of the six starts.
"Robert Morris is a team that has always played us tough at home for whatever reason," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "They have a team much like ours with a couple of very high end players - we have Matt Read and Brad Hunt; they have Longpre and Urban.
"This should be a very interesting series - it's the first time we've played since that very emotional CHA playoff championship game. I'm sure it's going to be in the back of the minds of the coaches, players and fans."
Robert Morris plays the type of game that is fan friendly, Serratore continued.
"They play kind of a fun style of hockey," he said, "where it's pretty free wheeling. Playing against a team like that is always a little nerve wracking for the coaching staff. If you get lured into that type of game, Robert Morris can rack up some goals pretty fast. We have to be ready to react."
After leading the nation in scoring through the first couple weeks of the season, the Beavers came back to earth last weekend, according to Serratore, scoring just four goals in the two game series.
"Hats off to our defense for the way they played last weekend," Serratore said. "That's more of the type of team we are - instead of a team averaging 4.5 goals a year we're more they type of team you saw last weekend - playing strong defense and making the most of our opportunities on offense."
The key for the series against Robert Morris, Serratore continued, will center on defense. "We'll need to pay attention to our defensive plan and concentrate on details," he said. "It's going to be critical we do that. We want to be a puck pressure team that's tough to play against - we're continuing to work towards that goal."
The Beavers are currently ranked highly in a number of national statistical categories, both as a team and individually. The Beavers .917 winning percentage is tied for fourth nationally. The scoring defense, which has allowed only nine goals in six games (1.50), currently ranks in a tie for third.
The scoring offense dipped to a 3.67 goals per game average (22 goals in six games) after the UAH series, but that is still good for a tie for ninth. The BSU penalty kill (28 of 31, 90.3 percent efficiency) ranks tied for sixth nationally.
Individually the Beavers also rank high. Sophomore defender Brad Hunt (1-6--7) is averaging 1.27 points per game which stands fourth among defensemen. Freshman Jordan George (2-4--6) averages one point per game which is tied for ninth among freshman. Junior forward Matt Read (5-5--10) is averaging 1.67 points per game, which is tied for 19th among all players nationally.
Sophomore goalie Dan Bakala, who currently has a 4-0-1 record and a winning percentage of .900, is tied for eighth in that category. His .933 save percentage in 16th nationally and 1.75 goals against average 11th.