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Bemidji State's Danny Mattson (16) has a close call against Northern Michigan goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom Saturday night in BSU's 3-1 loss. The Beavers travel to Lake Superior State for a WCHA series this weekend and hope to snap an 8-game winless streak.

MEN'S HOCKEY: Ready for rematch at Lake State

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BEMIDJI -- It's been a while since the BSU men's hockey team won-- eight games in fact -- but the Beavers have been here before.

Last season the Beavers endured a long 12-game winless streak that spanned nearly all of 2013.

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The Beavers aren't comparing this years' streak to last year, but the veterans on the team seem to know how to power through stretches like this one.

"We're trying not to think about comparing to last season since it wasn't a good year and it's a different team," BSU senior winger Radoslav Illo said. "But this year I think we're getting more chances offensively. We just have to stay positive and try and keep a good attitude. Sooner or later it's going to go through, we're going to start winning games. Some of it just feels like bad luck."

The Beavers hope to get a combination of good luck and skill this weekend when they face Lake Superior State on the road in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series. Then teams face off at 6:07 p.m. today in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and at 6:37 p.m. Saturday.

LSSU (11-8-1, 7-7-0 WCHA) just so happens to be the last team the Beavers beat -- a 2-1 victory Nov. 23 at the Sanford Center. Sophomore Cory Ward scored the game-winner in overtime for the Beavers in that game but BSU (5-11-6, 5-7-4) has been coming up short in extra time since.

The Lakers -- currently ranked No. 19 in the USCHO.com media poll after a split with Michigan Tech -- are the first team BSU will see twice this season and BSU head coach Tom Serratore said they're once again looking for a tight defensive battle.

"We know they're a good defensive team with an experienced (defensive core) and an experienced goaltender," Serratore said. "And those defensemen have the ability to score goals. We have our work cut out for us."

"We know they will swarm us as much as they can, they're good at defense," Illo added. "We just have to put pucks on the net."

Defenseman Kevin Czuzman -- who is second on the team in points with 15 and tied for second with seven goals -- scored against the Beavers back in November while defensemen Erik Drapluk and Andrew Perrault also collected points.

Both games were low-scoring -- the Lakers won 3-2 Friday and BSU won 2-1 Saturday -- and the Beavers know their defense needs some work if they want to compete with the Lakers.

"If we're going to be a playoff contender we have to be limiting teams to one, two, three goals," BSU defenseman Graeme McCormack said, noting the Beavers let in seven goals and were swept by Northern Michigan last weekend. "The past three games we haven't done that. We let in five against Alaska, four Friday and three Saturday. That's not going to cut it."

BSU's 3.18 goals against average is the worst in the WCHA aside from Alabama-Huntsville.

The Beavers, who are currently in a three-way tie for fourth place with Lake Superior and Michigan Tech, know picking up points the next few weekends could be the difference between a playoff berth and staying home.

"The league is so tight right now, at least in the middle," McCormack said. "You know, Ferris is on top and Huntsville is on the bottom, but everybody else could either have home ice or be in second-to-last place depending on how a couple weekends go."

"It's playoff time now," Serratore added. "That's how we have to approach it. At this point you can almost count on two hands how many games we have left. We have seven weeks of hockey. That's all before the playoffs. This is the stretch run."

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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.
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