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BSU men's hockey returns home to face WCHA's Michigan Tech

Bemidji State will face its third Western Collegiate Hockey Association team of the season this weekend in Michigan Tech. BSU played St. Cloud State (above) in October and split the series. Pictured from left: BSU's Dan McIntyre (4), Tyler Scofield and Chris Peluso celebrate Scofield's goal against St. Cloud State on Oct. 25. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

After a brutal stretch of games where the Beavers played eight of 10 on the road, the Bemidji State men's hockey team returns home tonight.

The Beavers host non-conference foe Michigan Tech (2-9-1, 1-8-1 WCHA) in the two-game series. Today's 7:35 p.m. game at The Glas will mark the first time that Michigan Tech has played at Bemidji State. The Beavers (3-7-0, 2-2 CHA) traveled to Houghton two years ago and were swept by the Huskies.

The Beavers are coming off a successful road trip, splitting with preseason College Hockey America favorite Niagara University in upstate New York last weekend. The Beavers lost the opener 3-1 before coming back in the series finale to win by the same score.

"It was a good weekend for us," said head coach Tom Serratore. "We played with a lot of intensity and purpose. We feel we very well could have come out of there with two wins. We might have played our best game on Friday, but we just couldn't convert on our scoring opportunities."

In the road win, the Beavers were hit with a major penalty and game misconduct early, forcing some major adjustments. "We weren't able to use any of our regular line combinations much at all for nearly the entire game," Serratore reported, "but the guys responded.

"I'm proud of the guys. We gave up that goal in the third to make it 2-1 and we shut them down from there. When they pulled their goalie at the end, they didn't get the puck past the red line. The guys played with a lot of poise and showed some maturity."

The Beavers are now at home for two consecutive weekends, after facing the brutal early schedule. "It's nice to be home," Serratore said, "but we also have to keep learning how to play on the road. In a perfect world we'd be 5-5 right now - we could even be pretty happy with 4-6. But we're not there yet.

"There won't be an easy game for us this year. The guys know what they need to do in order to be successful - play at a high intensity level and keep mistakes to a minimum. Now they just have to go out and do it consistently."

Michigan Tech has struggled so far this season. The lone non-conference win came against Lake Superior State (3-2). The Huskies' only success in the WCHA includes a 4-2 win over Alaska-Anchorage and a 2-2 tie at Minnesota.

Interestingly, the Beavers and the Huskies have the same number of wins against WCHA opponents this season - one. The teams have one common opponent, both being swept by Minnesota State-Mankato.

A look at the stats bears out the Michigan Tech struggles this season. The Huskies have been outscored at nearly a 2 to 1 ratio -- averaging just 1.7 goals per game, while allowing of 3.2.

The struggles have also been evident on the Tech special teams. The Huskies have scored just six goals on 66 attempts (9.1 percent success), while allowing the opponent 16 goals in 68 attempts (23.5 percent success).

It is also interesting to note that while the Huskies have struggled to score, they have actually out shot their opponents on the season. Michigan Tech has averaged nearly 30 shots per game, while allowing the opposition an average of 27. That means Tech has generated offense, but just struggled in finishing - not all that different than Bemidji State.

Michigan Teach has proven to be a slow starting team this season, being outscored 14-3 in the first period and 10-5 in the second.

Part of the early struggles can be attributed to injuries as only 10 of the 27 players on the Tech roster have played in every game this season.

Michigan Tech is currently led in scoring by junior defenseman Drew Dobson with nine points - all on assists. Leading goal scorer is sophomore center Jordan Baker with six. Senior center Alex Gagne (3-3--6) has scored a point is each of the team's lat four series. Freshman forward Alex McLeod (3-2--5) and sophomore forward Eric Kattelus (1-3--4) have also been scoring threats.

Senior Rob Nolan has seen the majority of time for the Huskies in net. He currently stands at 1-7-1 with a .894 save percentage and 3.06 goals against average. Also seeing some action in goal has been freshman Josh Robinson (1-2-0, .864 save percentage, 3.19 gaa).

"Michigan Tech could be the team that gives us the most fits this season," Serratore reported. "They are very difficult to play against - they like to out-man the puck defensively and then pack in it. Since we're offensively challenged and with scoring chances at a premium against them we need to focus on being better on the rush and also converting on the special teams."

A look at the BSU stats reveals nearly the same scenario as Tech. The Beavers have averaged scoring 2.1 goals per game, while allowing 3.7. BSU has been successful on the power play 12.5 percent of the time (7-56), with the opponents connecting at a 19.7 percent success rate (13-66).

"To be honest we don't really know a lot about Tech," Serratore reported. "But, it's a WCHA team which means they will be well-coached and difficult to play against. We've struggled against teams who play the style Tech plays. We want to play more of a full-court type game, but against Tech it's be more of a half court game. It's going to be tough."