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No. 8 Bemidji State men's hockey team hopes to keep rolling against Huntsville

Brad Hunt and the Bemidji State men's hockey team hosts Alabama-Huntsville this weekend in a CHA series. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Fresh off a historic win against the University of Minnesota, the Bemidji State men's hockey team returns home to face longtime College Hockey America rival Alabama-Huntsville.

The series is set for a 7:35 p.m. start tonight and 7:05 start Saturday from the John Glas Fieldhouse. It will be the Chargers' last appearance ever at The Glas.

The Beavers enter the series riding high, featuring a record of 8-1-1 and ranked eighth nationally. The Beavers traveled to Mariucci Arena last weekend and dropped the opener to the Golden Gophers 4-1 before rebounding for a big 6-2 win in the finale.

While very gratified with the big win, BSU head coach Tom Serratore said it's now time to move on.

"That's yesterday's news," he said. "We have to keep improving and can't afford a letdown. The schedule is now in our favor with six of our next eight games at home and two at a neutral site.

"We've survived what I believe was a tough road schedule to start the year. Now, we've put ourselves in position to really move into the driver's seat in the CHA regular season race.

"This next part of the schedule will test the maturity level of our team."

The Beavers and Chargers will now face each other for the second series in only three weeks. BSU traveled to Huntsville Oct. 31-Nov. 1 and came away with a pair of hard fought 2-1 overtime wins.

The Chargers have lost their last six games in a row, after starting the season 3-1. In a bit of an oddity, all of the UAH wins have come on the road.

"We could have, maybe should have, been beaten in both games at Huntsville," Serratore reported. "I think our guys realize they'll have to be at the top of their game to beat them here."

Since the arrival of head coach Danton Cole, Serratore said the Chargers have always been very well prepared when playing the Beavers."They have us very well scouted and work hard to take away the things we like to do," Serratore reported. "They have a pretty good nucleus of guys and their goalie Cameron Talbot could be the best in our league."

Talbot has played very minute of the season in goal for UAH and features a strong 2.39 goals against average and .929 save percentage.

The Chargers have struggled offensively to support Talbot, averaging just 1.7 goals per game. Kevin Morrison leads the Chargers in points with six on three goals and three assists. Justin Cseter leads the team in goals with four.

Serratore had a quick answer when asked to pin down the main factors behind the Beavers strong start.

"The work ethic has been outstanding," he said. "The guys have shown a great attention to detail and our defensive play has been outstanding. Also our offense is among the leaders in the nation - that's generated through the work ethic and team defense."

Statistics bear out the statements. The Beavers are currently sixth in the nation in offense, scoring an average of 3.70 goals per game. At the same time BSU leads the nation in defense, allowing just 1.60 goals per game.

"Right from the beginning of the year you could sense a quiet confidence among the players," Serratore said. "The success we had last spring - the guys realized it happened as a result of the little things we do."

Those "little things," Serratore said, have become a mantra of the Beavers program: compete hard, pressure the puck, go to the net, contest shots, block shots and take care of the puck.

"The guys as a whole have really raised the level of their hockey IQ," Serratore reported. "Their mental toughness has been outstanding - they don't get rattled.

"As mature as the guys have been, it's a tough thing to maintain -- that's the test. We have an opportunity, if we take care of business, to really gain some separation in the CHA regular season title race before the Christmas break.

"But, it's not going to be easy. We have to play well because every team will be fully prepared for us. Hopefully, we can continue our high level of play."

National stats

The Beavers continue to be ranked among the leaders nationally in several individual categories.

Junior forward Matt Read has become the talk of the Minnesota collegiate hockey scene with his fine play. Read currently stands eighth nationally in points per game, averaging 1.50 points on eight goals and seven assists in 10 games. He also ranks ninth in goals per game (.80) and is tied for first in game winning goals with 3.

Sophomore defender Brad Hunt (2-10--12) ranks sixth overall in assists per game (1.0) and second in points per game among defenseman (1.20).

Freshman forward Jordan George ranks third nationally in points per game among rookies (1.20) on five goals and seven assists for 12 points.

Sophomore goalie Dan Bakala is ranked high in all major categories: eighth in goals against average (1.68), ninth in save percentage (.935) and seventh in winning percentage (6-1-1, .812).