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BSU men's hockey team hosts Manitoba for exhibition series

Freshmen like Darcy Findlay (6) could see more playing time in this weekend's exhibition series against Manitoba. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Exhibition games on a college hockey schedule usually serve one main purpose --giving a team the opportunity to give playing time to freshman.

While that's certainly the case for Bemidji State this weekend in its series with the University of Manitoba, a focus is also being placed on wins and losses. Even though the games are exhibitions and don't count in the official records, the Beavers are in a position where wins are important.

"We're 1-5," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "We want to win games, any games, no matter the opponent and establish an identity as a team. On the flip side, we wan to give playing time to our young kids so we can see what they can do."

The Beavers are coming off their most successful weekend of the early season, topping then 15th ranked St. Cloud State 4-2 before falling 5-3 in the series finale. It was first win for the Beavers over the Huskies in 10 tries since the teams moved to the NCAA DI ranks.

"It was a good weekend for us," Serratore reported. "We played five of six good periods against a very tough opponent. The bottom line is it showed the guys how they have to play in order to be successful. They have to compete hard and play desperate every night; when our guys do that we can be a hard team to play against.

"Overall I gave us a B, when you play to that level you'll win games."

One of the concerns coming out of the weekend was the BSU penalty kill. On Saturday night the Huskies scored three power play goals and one at even strength to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead. It was too much of a deficit for the Beavers to turn around.

"We have to watch our penalties," Serratore reported, "and be especially mindful not to take three or four in a row. You can't be playing 4 on 3 or 5 on 3 consistently; or you're just playing Russian roulette."

Now that the Beavers have shown they can compete against the higher echelon teams in the country this year, the trick now is to produce the same effort on a consistent basis. "That's the ultimate goal," Serratore reported, "to play that way game in and game out. But it's certainly not easy playing that way on the road, not for any team. That's the challenge now, consistency.

"At the same time, we want to keep playing tough at home as well. We have to make sure that when people come to The Glas they aren't happy about it because they know they're in for a battle. We want to make sure that when they leave they have respect for us and how we play the game."

The series

The exhibition series will give BSU the opportunity to play some freshmen who haven't seen much action this year. In addition, others who have played will be seeing extended action in different roles - such as the penalty kill and power play.

In addition the Beavers will give some veterans an opportunity to rest and take care of some nagging injuries. "There are some guys who need the rest," Serratore said. ""Nothing serious, but a couple could use the time to heal up a bit."

The emphasis will be on effort, no matter who is seeing playing time. "That's one thing we can control," Serratore, "the effort we put forth. We want to see a continuation of the hard work and competitive desire we saw last weekend. We may be playing different players and different line combinations, but we want to see that effort."

The Beavers' opponent, the University of Manitoba, has a very proud hockey history and tradition, first supporting a hockey squad in 1919-20. Over the years Manitoba has piled up 700 wins.

Despite being separated by a national boarder and different league affiliations, regional proximity has allowed the series between Bemidji State and the University of Manitoba to become quite extensive. The teams first met Feb. 24, 1962. Since that 2-1 Manitoba victory, the Beavers and Bison have skated head-to-head on 37 occasions with BSU holding a 21-14-3 edge in the all-time series. Since making the jump to the NCAA Division I level prior to the 1999-2000 season, six of the Bemidji State's 12 exhibition contests have come versus the Bison--the Beavers are 3-2-1 in those games.

"Games like these are important for us to be able assess players," Serratore reported. "With all the rule changes this year and moving to an extra referee, teams are losing depth because of all the penalties and infractions being called. It's very hard to roll four lines and establish a flow. Because of that it's difficult to see a lot of players in game situations.

"This will be a great weekend to give some of our guys who haven't seen much playing time yet a chance to show what they can do."