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Bemidji State men's hockey: No. 4 Beavers still playing with something to prove

Kyle Hardwick and the Bemidji State men's hockey team hosts Minnesota State University, Mankato this weekend at John Glas Fieldhouse. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

With a record of 13-2-1 overall, 8-0-0 in College Hockey America play and a No. 4 ranking in both national polls, it seems a bit odd the Bemidji State men's hockey team feels it still has something to prove.

But that's the case as the Beavers play a nonconference series with Minnesota State University, Mankato this weekend at The John Glas Fieldhouse.

"There's no doubt who the favorite is in this series," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "They've beaten us the last four times we've played. The last time we were swept at home was against them in 2007-08 and they took it to us big last year in Mankato (winning 5-2 and 4-2).

"This is going to be a great test for us."

The Beavers extended their CHA winning streak to eight with a sweep of major rival Niagara last weekend at The Glas.

The Beavers won the opener 8-2 before hanging on to win the finale 3-2 on Saturday.

"It was a good rebound weekend for us," Serratore reported. "After the loss to Ohio State the previous weekend, I was proud of how the guys responded.

"I don't think we could have played any better on Saturday - it was a dominating-type win. On Saturday Niagara played a lot better, but our guys still found a way to win."

MSU (7-8-1, 5-8-1 WCHA) come into the series on a hot streak, winning four of their last six games.

After starting the season 3-6-1, MSU has notched a split at Anchorage, a sweep against Michigan Tech and a split with Minnesota last weekend. MSU posted a 3-1 win at Mariucci Arena Friday, before falling to the Golden Gophers 6-2 in Mankato on Saturday.

Senior forwards Zach Harrison (7-6--13) and Jared Stewart (5-9--14) lead the Mavericks in scoring. Junior defenseman Ben Youds (0-12--12) stands third on the team in scoring and leads all MSU defensemen.

In goal, sophomore Austin Lee has seen the majority of playing time. He stands 6-5-0 with a 2.74 goals against average and .906 save percentage. Lee has started six of the last seven games for the Mavericks. Freshman Kevin Murdock (1-3-1, 3.46, .895) has made five starts in net.

"MSU has an experienced team with a bunch of very talented juniors and seniors," Serratore reported. "They are very fast, quick and deep at forward. They use that speed to play a high pressure type of game - coming at you hard offensively and pressuring the puck hard defensively."

Serratore said the Beavers want to utilize the same game plan against Mankato. "We want to pressure the puck well and try to negate their speed a bit," he said. "We want to take care of the puck, get it deep and forecheck hard - play a 200 foot game."

In addition to the MSU leading scorers Serratore also pointed out a couple more key players -- seniors Geoff Irwin and Kael Mouillierat. "Mouillierat is a tremendous player who's very skilled and quick. Irwin is a physical forward to skates well and has a great shot.

"It's going to be a tough weekend for us. We haven't matched up well against them over the last two years," he said.

With the holiday break just a week away, Serratore said the focus this week has been keeping the team from getting stale. "This first part of the season has been a real grind," he said. "This is going to be a good time for a break for us.

"But, we still have some major work to do. We want to make sure we have a productive weekend and try to keep this thing going.

"I told the guys they could check out at 10 p.m. Saturday, but not until then."

The Beavers continue to lead the nation in team defense (tied with Ferris State), allowing an average of 1.75 goals per game. Offensively the Beavers are ranked fourth scoring an average of 4.0 goals per game (64 goals in 16 games). Only four teams in the nation average scoring four or more goals per game this year.

The Beavers are also first in scoring margin (2.35) and in winning percentage (13-2-1, .844).

Individually, sophomore goaltender Dan Bakala stands first in winning percentage (10-1-1, .875), fourth in save percentage (.935) and fifth in goals against average (1.73).

Junior Matt Read is 10th nationally in points per game (112-12--23, 1.44), 14th in goals per game (11, 0.69), tied for second in shorthanded goals (2) and tied for second with game winning goals (3) along with teammate Ryan Cramer.

Sophomore defenseman Brad Hunt (5-11--16) is sixth in points per game for defensemen (1.00), while freshman Jordan George is third in points per game among rookies (6-13--19, 1.19).