MEN'S HOCKEY: BSU scoring has increased from last season as they host Alaska-Anchorage
BEMIDJI — Everyone is happy to see the increase in scoring on the Bemidji State men’s hockey team. Maybe none more than Markus Gerbrandt.
The sophomore from Edmonton, Alberta, leads the Beavers with seven goals through 10 games played, good enough for second in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Only Northern Michigan’s Stephan Vigier, with 10 goals in 10 games, has scored more than Gerbrandt.
“I’m glad for the opportunity,” said Gerbrandt, who scored just four goals in 31 games in his freshman season. “I’m playing a lot more, so I’m getting into a rhythm. It feels better getting a regular shift. I’m getting more chemistry with my linemates. Everything’s working right now.”
Gerbrandt will get a chance to increase his numbers this weekend when the Beavers host Alaska-Anchorage in a WCHA series this weekend at the Sanford Center (7:37 p.m. today; 7:07 p.m. Saturday)..
The Seawolves (5-3-0, 2-2-0 WCHA) are just two points behind the Beavers (3-6-1, 3-3-0) in the league standings and BSU hopes to continue their torrid goalscoring pace.
Through six conference games the Beavers have tallied 21 goals (3.50 goals per game). That’s second in the league behind Ferris State, who swept BSU in last weekend’s series in Big Rapids. BSU has scored 29 goals total.
The Beavers are slightly outpacing their scoring totals from last season (27 total goals through 10 games).
“It feels a little different this year with scoring,” Gerbrandt said. “Coach usually says you score three goals you should be able to win the game and we’re scoring three in most games right now. So it’s nice that we’re getting a little more offense this year.”
In addition to the Beavers outpacing themselves, BSU has also seen increased production up and down the lineup: Last season 15 players scored a goal.
This year 17 Beavers have at least one tally.
BSU head coach Tom Serratore credits that, in part, to a better power play.
“There’s no rhyme or reason sometimes,” Serratore said. “Sometimes it’s just about confidence and getting offensive opportunities. Although our power play is clipping at a pretty good pace right now, which helps.”
BSU’s power play, at 8-for-37 (27 percent) is No. 17 in the nation. And the Beavers’ combined special teams is tops in Division I, at 52-for-87 (59.8 percent).
Alaska Anchorage will make it tough on the Beavers this weekend.
UAA goaltender Rob Gunderson has been fantastic in five games, saving 87 pucks in 95 shots and allowing just eight goals.
Serratore said he was impressed with how the Seawolves have played this season, especially after struggling to win four games last year.
Under new coach Matt Thomas UAA already has surpassed that total through less than two months of the season.
“I really like them on tape,” Serratore said. “I watched the last two series, against Bowling Green and Huntsville. Their older players are playing very well for them right now; they’re getting a lot of mileage out of their veterans.
“They have some veterans who can score, they have some good size and they have a mobile backline. They’ve had early success right now, so they’re playing with a lot of confidence.”
The Seawolves allowed the fewest first-period goals (seven) in the league. Conversely, the Beavers have allowed the most (11). Serratore said that needs to change — the Beavers can’t afford to keep having poor first periods and continue to play from behind.
“You just have to come out of the blocks better,” Serratore said. “You take a look at the past four games, the first period has been the toughest period. But in saying that, we haven’t really struggled from a scoring standpoint other than the first period against Ferris.”
In those four games (against Minnesota State and Ferris State) BSU has been outshot 63-16, but the only time their first-period struggles really hurt them was Saturday’s game against FSU. The Bulldogs scored four goals in the opening frame and chased goaltender Andrew Walsh.
“Saturday we just dug a hole for ourselves,” Serratore said. “We just have to be more consistent, we can’t play in our end the whole time.”
“We’re going to have to have better starts for sure,” Gerbrandt added. ‘That first period in the last game was horrible for us... not just that last game, but our past four games our first periods we’ve been held together by walsh. We need to do better this weekend.”