BEMIDJI – Last time Michigan Tech and Bemidji State met, it didn’t go as planned for the hosts at the Sanford Center. The Huskies won both games in overtime, scored three power play goals and took all four points in their series back in November.
This weekend, the Beavers (5-11-4, 4-7-3 WCHA) make the trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula hoping to return the favor. The teams are set to face off at 6:07 p.m. both nights in a series that could provide some separation in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings. The Beavers, with 11 points, are two points ahead of the Huskies in the standings.
“We definitely want to go in there and win,” said Bemidji State goaltender Andrew Walsh. “We kind of have revenge on our minds. They took points in our rink, we want to go take some in theirs.”
Although Michigan Tech (6-12-3, 3-10-3 WCHA) took both games at the Sanford Center, that series has been one of the few bright spots this season for the Huskies. After their trip to Bemidji, the Huskies went more than a month – seven games – without a win.
Tech’s recent performance in the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit – a pair of 4-0 shutouts against Michigan and Western Michigan – snapped the Huskies’ skid and proved that they can hang with just about any team in the country when they’re clicking.
Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said playing the Huskies a second time around doesn’t give either team an advantage.
“We know their styles and they know ours and that’s the basic thing when you play a team for a second time,” he said. “You know what to expect. Not specifically tactically, but the style they play. And they’re an offensive team. They play high octane, they pressure the puck. They break the puck out extremely well.
“And the biggest thing is, that one power play unit, they haven’t changed it at all (since last time we played them),” Serratore said. “It’s a good unit. They have the ability to score goals on a consistent basis with that unit, there’s some continuity there.”
Walsh, who was on the losing end of the first game of the series – a 5-4 overtime loss Nov. 16 – knows firsthand the dangers of Tech’s potent power play. The Huskies scored three power play goals in that game, including two in the third period, to rally from a 4-1 deficit.
“We know we have to watch out for that power play,” Walsh said of a unit that includes Alex Petan, Jujhar Khaira and Steven Seigo. “It’s a good power play and if we give them those advantages they’re going to get some good chances. If we can get our kill clicking, we might be able to get some points back from them.”
Tech’s power play is 24th nationally, as they are 16-for-91 (17.6 percent). The Beavers are actually slightly better but have had fewer chances at 12-for-61 (19.7 percent).
The Beavers had last weekend off after their series against Western Michigan; the Broncos scored eight goals in the two games at the Sanford Center. The Beavers aren’t scoring as much as Serratore would like, but he likes the team’s balance in other areas.
“I wish we were scoring more goals,” he said. “We were scoring goals early in the year, making a little bit of a run, but we’ve been a little stale as of late.
“I like our balance and I like our goaltending. Our defensive corps is playing well too. But we need to score more goals and we need to make sure our special teams are more consistent.”
The timing of BSU’s bye week – just two weeks after returning from holiday break – wasn’t ideal. But it gave the Beavers a chance to reflect and work a little more. They haven’t won a game since before Christmas.
“I think we came in with the mentality not that it’s a bye week, but it’s just a week to get better,” Walsh said. “So we worked on quite a few things and it was productive.”