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MEN'S HOCKEY: Playoff picture still muddled, but BSU needs to take care of business in final home series vs. UAH

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MEN'S HOCKEY: Playoff picture still muddled, but BSU needs to take care of business in final home series vs. UAH
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

BEMIDJI — It may be cliche to “take it one game at a time” and “only worry about our team,” but for a majority of the teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this season, the alternative is dizzying.

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With two weekends to go in conference play and most teams battling to make the postseason, (almost) anything can happen.

One excerpt from the latest weekly press release sent out by the league makes the point well:

“To be specific there are still 387,420,489 possibilities remaining at this point.”

As if the BSU men’s hockey team didn’t already have enough to worry about.

With four games left to play the Beavers are currently clinging to the eighth — and final — playoff position with 22 points.

But as the press release so exactly notes, the possibilities are nearly endless.

That makes BSU’s job this weekend against Alabama-Huntsville fairly simple — just win, baby.

“We know it’s real tight,” BSU forward Markus Gerbrandt said. “Right now we’re just trying to get points. Anything could happen... we could happen home ice or we could finish out of the playoffs. Right now we’re focused on Friday. We’ve gotta start with two points there and go from there, I guess.

“The only thing we can control right now is what we do. The bottom line is we have to get it done. We can’t worry about anybody else.”

The Beavers (9-16-7, 9-11-4 WCHA) host longtime rivals Alabama Huntsville tonight and Saturday at the Sanford Center — their final home series of the regular season.

BSU, of course, is hoping for a shot at one more series in the WCHA playoffs. But first they have to take care of business against a Chargers team that is tougher than their 1-32-1 overall record would indicate.

“They’re a hard-working team right now and they want to spoil somebody’s season,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “We want to be prepared to play on Friday.

“Those kids (at UAH) play hard, and they have a lot of pride. We have to win a game on Friday night. That’s where our focus has to be. We’re playing with a lot of desperation too so hopefully we’re going to be clicking on all eight cylinders.”

BSU is coming off a bye week but the Chargers were swept by Lake Superior State in a close series that featured a pair of one-goal games. UAH relied on the strong play of goaltenders Matt Larose (44 saves in Friday’s 2-1 loss) and Carmine Guerriero (36 saves in Saturday’s 3-2 loss) to stay in both contests. The Chargers were swept by Minnesota State two weekends before; Guerrero made 60 saves in the Feb. 15 loss.

“They’ve been playing some good hockey the last couple weekends, that’s for sure,” BSU senior Jeff Jubinville said. “They had the lead both nights against Lake State and lost by a hair. They’re playing good hockey here at the end of the year and they’re looking to ruin somebody’s season... obviously we don’t want that to be us, so we’ll do whatever it takes.”

Serratore said although the Chargers have had some lopsided scorelines he thinks their goaltending and defense has been strong for much of the season. The more shots the Beavers can generate the better.

“Regardless of their record they can compete with any team,” Gerbrandt said. “From what we’ve heard they got robbed in both games last weekend. They come to play, it’s not going to be a cakewalk.”

NOTES: As of Tuesday junior goaltender Andrew Walsh was still questionable for this weekend’s series with a lower-body injury. Serratore didn’t know who would be starting today’s game.

“Walshy’s a little banged-up right now,” he said. “I don’t know where thing are at now, so we’ll have to wait and see.” …

Tonight’s game is Native Nations Night. There will be discount tickets available for all tribal members — $12 for adults and $5 for ages 17 and younger.

In addition, former U.S. Olympian and Warroad native Henry Boucha will also make an appearence at the game.

Contact (218) 441-4018 for more information. ...

Saturday’s game will be senior night for the Beavers.

In contrast to last season’s big 10-man senior class, this year there are just three on the squad — forwards Jubinville, Radoslav Illo and Matt Hartmann.

“They bring a lot to the table,” Serratore said. “They bring great leadership skills, great work ethic off the ice and they’re all great students.”

Jubinville has 12 points this season (three goals, nine assists) and Illo has 14 (nine goals, five assists).

Hartmann, an assistant captain who has been out with an injury since Nov. 29 since Miami, scored his first-ever collegiate goal Nov. 1 against Minnesota State. Serratore doesn’t expect him to play this weekend.

“He’s one of those heart and soul guys,” Serratore said. “He hasn’t played a lot of hockey because of his injury. I feel bad for him because this was kind of his year.”

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
(218) 333-9772
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