BSU set to face big rivals
This is it - the final weekend of the regular season for the Bemidji State men's hockey team.
The opponent? BSU's biggest rival in College Hockey America - Alabama-Huntsville.
The task ahead for the Beavers is clear. A glimmer of hope remains for a top two regular season league finish and a first round bye in the CHA tournament.
To get there, the Beavers have to sweep Huntsville by a three goals or higher differential.
Following last weekend's action UAH (18-10-2, 12-5-1 CHA) stands in first with 25 points. Niagara (17-14-1, 11-6-1 CHA) holds second place with 23 points with the Beavers (16-13-3, 10-7-1 CHA) in third with 21 points.
Without getting too confusing with the various what-if scenarios, a BSU sweep this weekend would place the Beavers in a tie with UAH at 25 points. UAH swept the first series of the two teams this year by scores of 2-1 and 4-2, a three goal differential. The Beavers need to sweep this weekend by a margin of three goals or more to win the tie-breaker. BSU holds the second tie-breaker over UAH, goals allowed against all conference teams
First place is still within reach for BSU, if only faintly, requiring a BSU sweep by the three goals or greater margin and a Robert Morris sweep over visiting Niagara.
"We can't control where we find ourselves in the standings," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "We can only control how well we play this weekend and next weekend at the CHA tournament."
The Beavers are coming off a disappointing series at Niagara, falling 6-5 in overtime and 5-1 on Saturday. The Beavers held a 5-4 third period lead in the opener before Niagara came back for the victory.
It was a disheartening weekend for the Beavers who went into the series leading the league and left in third place.
"At Niagara," Serratore said, "they were the better team. They played to win a championship. Hopefully, we'll get that eye of the tiger.
"We have some very big games to play over the next two weekends. From past experience, these guys know what it takes to win these kinds of games. Now they just have to do it."
The Beavers were without junior Rob Sirianni (shoulder) and sophomore Jake Bluhm (concussion) last weekend, causing BSU to mix and match lines. But Serratore isn't about to use injuries as an excuse for losing the two league games.
"No doubt, Sirianni brings a lot of skill and Bluhm a lot of grit to our team," he said. "This weekend (Shane Holman) will be out. But I believe coaches who make excuses about injuries will make excuses about anything.
"That's not the way we do things. We feel we are deep enough that no matter who's in the line up we can win."
Sirianni and Bluhm both plan to be back for their UAH series. Holman's long-term status was not available, although he won't play this weekend.
Huntsville is coming off a 2-1, 6-1 series sweep against visiting Wayne State last weekend. The weekend before the Chargers were swept at Air Force 3-1, 5-0.
Senior Bruce Mulherin leads the Chargers in goals, assists and total scoring with 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points. No other UAH players has scored more than nine goals.
Scott Munroe has started all but two games this season for UAH in goal. He features a record of 16-8-2 with a 2.98 goals against average and a .917 save percentage.
As a team the Chargers have scored an average of 3.27 goals per game, while allowing 3.00.
The Beavers average 3.41 goals per game, while allowing 2.41, tops in the CHA.
Junior Luke Erickson leads the team in points (14-17--31), while junior Ryan Miller leads the team in goals with 15. Sirianni has 12 goals.
The Beavers have gone to sophomore Matt Climie as the top goalie, having played him the last four games. His time was cut short in the opener against Niagara, after incurring a 10 minute misconduct that he had to serve, giving way to junior Layne Sedevie.
Climie has an 8-7-2 record with a 2.70 goals against average and .913 save percentage.
E The U.S. men's and women's curling teams will drop the ceremonial first puck before tonight's game at the Glas. The teams are in town with the start of the U.S. World Team Trials starting tomorrow at Bemidji Curling Club.
E Erickson has become just the fourth Beaver to reach the 100 point plateau since BSU moved to the NCAA DI ranks.