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Beaver hockey: BSU remains solid in polls, PairWise rankings

With the 2009-10 regular season now history, the Bemidji State men's hockey team enters postseason play in solid position to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

The Beavers concluded the regular season with a win and tie at Alabama-Huntsville last weekend. BSU finished the season 23-8-2 overall and 14-3-1 in College Hockey America, good for the regular-season league title and the top seed in the CHA tournament.

The pairings are now set for the league tournament, to be held at Dwyer Arena on the campus of Niagara University Friday and Saturday. In the tournament opener Friday at 2 p.m. Bemidji time, second seed Robert Morris will face third seed Alabama-Huntsville. The nightcap finds the top seed Bemidji State facing off against fourth seed Niagara at 6 p.m.

The third-place game between the two semifinal losers will start at 3 p.m. Saturday. The championship game, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, will begin at 7 p.m.

The Beavers remained unchanged in the national polls following the Huntsville series, sitting in eighth place in both the poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.

More importantly, the tie with UAH caused the Beavers to dip slightly in both the Ratings Percentage Index and the PairWise rankings. Entering the weekend the Beavers were fifth in PairWise, a tool used to approximate the criteria used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

Monday, the Beavers dropped down a spot to a tie for fifth in PairWise and ranked sixth in the RPI. A tie-breaker in the PairWise would drop BSU to sixth.

With conference tournaments for all leagues in full swing this coming weekend, it's premature to try to figure out where the Beavers will stand if they lose a game or two. One thing is certain, if the Beavers win two they will advance to the NCAA Tournament and have a shot at a No. 1 seed.

Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said RPI, PairWise and the NCAA Tournament are the furthest things from the minds of the BSU players and coaches now.

"It's next to impossible to focus on PairWise when we're preparing for our league tournament," Serratore said. "All we know is that you better be prepared and ready to play well at this time of year or you're going to have a very difficult time.

"We addressed that before practice today - everyone is 0-0 right now and every team has reason for optimism. For hockey players, it's all about the playoffs. We've waited all year for this weekend and there's a major sense of excitement throughout the team. That's where our focus is centered - on this weekend. We want to be playing our best hockey of the year for the next two games. Everything else we can think about later."