BEMIDJI – The Bemidji State hockey team has some work to do.
After two straight Western Collegiate Hockey Association series sweeps – at the hands of Colorado College and Michigan Tech – the Beavers host Alaska Anchorage this weekend. BSU players won’t call it a must-sweep, but they certainly want at last two points from the weekend.
“We need to come out Friday night and definitely need to get some points,” BSU senior captain Aaron McLeod said. “Our backs are kind of against the wall right now with four losses so I think it will be really essential to win Friday night’s game.”
The Beavers (2-5-1, 1-4-1 WCHA) lost both games in the Michigan Tech series by one goal in overtime. On Friday BSU had a 4-1 lead in the second period but Tech rallied to win 5-4. On Saturday, the Huskies controlled most of the game before the Beavers tied it late. BSU was 30 seconds from a tie before a few mistakes by the Beavers cost them a goal and the game.
“It’s tough to lose overtime games,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “There’s a fine line between winning and losing in the WCHA and that was evident this past week. You’re 30 seconds from a point, and how close are you to a win on Friday? But at the end of the day, we lost. That’s all that matters in the win-loss column.”
True, the Beavers lost, but a win or two this weekend against the Seawolves and they’re right back in the conversation for home ice. BSU is ninth with three points and the Seawolves (2-3-3, 0-2-2 WCHA) are tenth with two points.
The difference between the seventh-placed team and is only six points: Michigan Tech is seventh with six points while Anchorage, Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State each have two.
The Seawolves haven’t played since Oct. 9 and 10, when they went 0-1-1 against Minnesota in Anchorage.
Serratore doesn’t expect the Seawolves’ layoff to have any effect on the quality of the games this weekend.
Both teams are too desperate.
“They want the same thing that we want, and that’s wins,” Serratore said, noting that the Seawolves were a team similar to BSU. “Obviously they have a high, high battle level and good defensive core. They’re extremely hard to play against; they’re very similar to us and the styles are probably similar. They like to get up and down the sheet and they defend hard, just like us.”
The Seawolves have scored just 17 goals and have gone a league worst 2-for-26 (7.7 percent) on the power play, but are near the middle of the pack on goals against – much like BSU. Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal have rotated in and out in net, and both have allowed the exact same number of goals (12).
To beat the Seawolves this weekend, the Beavers will have to cut back on penalties and stay solid on defense at all times. BSU gave up three power play goals last weekend and one 4-on-4 goal. Both Michigan Tech scores in the third period Friday were on the power play, including the game tying goal.
“We have to get a little better at our penalty kill, a little more detailed,” Serratore said. “You can’t take (late) penalties and you have to stay disciplined, you have to stay the course. You can’t get rattled.
“If you look back at things, it’s a learning experience. We have to make sure our discipline is good, and in overtime you have to make sure you’re strong defensively.”
The Beavers will likely have to try and stay tough without team captain and points leader Ben Kinne this weekend. He suffered an upper-body injury against Michigan Tech and is questionable for today and tomorrow.
Everyone else, however, is healthy and ready to go. It’s an important series for both teams, and the Beavers realize it.
“We need to stay positive,” McLeod said. “It’s still early and there’s a lot of season left, but coming up the next two weekends we have some winnable games. So we’re going to try and get some points in there because we really need some.”