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BSU men's hockey: Peluso made many life-changing decisions on way to BSU

Bemidji State junior defenseman Chris Peluso comes from a strong Minnesota hockey background. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

The Bemidji State men's hockey season hasn't exactly started off the way junior defenseman Chris Peluso or his teammates had hoped.

A pair of road sweeps to start the year has the Beavers 0-4 and searching for an identity. Individually, Peluso was injured during the preseason and sat out the season opening series against Minnesota State, Mankato.

He returned to the ice against Air Force and, admittedly, didn't have his best series.

Even with the challenges, Peluso is far from being overly discouraged - either personally or about the team.

"The first two weeks have been frustrating for the team and for me," said Peluso, "but it's still very early. We didn't have our best series against Air Force, to state the obvious. They beat us to everything. We didn't play well and they did. Hopefully, we can make strides and use the series as a stepping stone to better days."

Making tough decisions and keeping things in perspective come naturally for Peluso, a student-athlete who made several major life decisions before reaching the age of 21.

Peluso has a great hockey pedigree. His uncle Mike had a fine career in the National Hockey League and was a standout with the New Jersey Devils. Assorted other family members have been known as fierce competitors in many sports during their playing days on the Iron Range.

"His family is from the Coleraine/Pengilly area," said Bemidji State head men's hockey coach Tom Serratore. "I know his Dad very well and played hockey/baseball with his uncles. He's a local kid and we're very happy to have him on our team."

Peluso has the "typical" hockey story of many kids from Northern Minnesota, first strapping on the skates as a three-year-old at an outdoor rink, and then working his way through the youth ranks.

Growing up in Wadena, his first major life decision came as an eighth grader. At that time the decision was made for Peluso to transfer to the Brainerd School system.

"Brainerd was a Class AA school and played tougher competition than Wadena," Peluso said. "I needed that. In addition Minnesota Hockey Camps was nearby and I was able to spend a lot of time there, which was great."

Peluso stayed in Brainerd through his junior year in high school. Then came another major decision. Peluso opted to move up to the United States Hockey League.

"It was a tough decision," he said. "The biggest pain was transferring schools again. But it was something I needed to do for my hockey development."

Right before entering juniors Peluso was drafted in the seventh round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the 194th overall pick.

Two years at Sioux Falls of the USHL turned out to be a great experience for Peluso. "It was a really good deal for a few reasons. I learned to live on my own and also learned a lot of things about hockey. A 60 game schedule allows for a lot on ice experience."

At that time, BSU came calling with a hockey scholarship. "I knew the university, the hockey program and the coaches well," Peluso said. "I wanted to stay in Minnesota and BSU gave me the best offer at the time so I decided to commit."

As is the case with most players, Peluso's freshman year was an eye opener. "My whole freshman year was kind of an adjustment year," he said, "learning the coach's style of play and being more competitive. It made me into a better player."

Peluso became a mainstay on the blue line as a sophomore and continued his development. Now in his third year, Peluso is one of the leaders on defense.

"He's the most mobile defenseman on our team," Serratore reported. "He has good puck skills and a good demeanor to his game. He's very reliable, a guy we count on. We'll rely on him heavily this year."

Just four games into the season, Peluso is reluctant to predict how the rest of the year will go for the Beavers. "I'd like to say, 'we're going to have a great year,' but, honestly, none of us are looking that far ahead.

"We're all working hard to be a better team this weekend - that's as far as we're looking ahead."