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Player Profile: Matt Read leads Bemidji State into NCAA tournament with scoring touch, work ethic

Bemidji State junior Matt Read celebrates one of his 19 goals this season with Jordan George. Read has led the Beavers in scoring in his three seasons with the team. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

There's no doubting the major impact junior forward Matt Read has on the Bemidji State men's hockey team.

Since arriving on the BSU campus three years ago, Read has been a force for the Beavers -- in every facet of the program.

For every game at the John Glas Fieldhouse this season, and most on the road, professional scouts and assistant coaches from the opposing teams would make appearances in the press box. In each game at some point, Read would do something on the ice that caused a stir.

Maybe it was s rocket slap shot that sent the goalie's water bottle flying, or maybe an impressive burst of speed to blow by a defender or possibly a bone jarring hit to an unsuspecting opponent.

BSU head coach Tom Serratore doesn't mince any words when describing Read, who was named the College Hockey America Player of the Year.

"He's the best player we've had here since moving to Division I," Serratore said. "He's so strong in every facet of the game; (Read) can skate, he has a great shot, he's physical and competes like a warrior. He's the hardest worker on the team, both on and off the ice."

Statistics back up the glowing praise:

Read broke into the starting lineup immediately as a freshman and has played in 109 consecutive games.

Read has led the Beavers in scoring in each of his first three seasons. Read has scored 107 points in 110 games.

The Beavers are 31-7-1 when Read scores a goal. This season the Beavers are 14-2-0 when he connects for a goal.

Read has a career plus/minus rating of an eye-popping plus-59. He's at plus-29 this year.

"I pride myself in my defensive play," Read said. "I hate being on the ice when the other team scores. In fact when it happens I consider the game failure, personally."

With the Beavers making their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, Read said he feels the team is well prepared. BSU opens the regional Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against Michigan in Fort Wayne, Ind.

"We're the underdog again, just like we were last year," Read said. "But I like our chances. Our team is as ready as it can be. One of the things we learned this season is that when we play our game, we can compete against any team in the country."

The Beavers ended the regular season 6-2-1 against teams in the top 25 of the Pairwise rankings. Included were wins over top ranked Miami, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Northern Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha.

There are some stark differences between this year's team and last year when the Beavers made their run to the Frozen Four.

"Last year we put together a little run at the end of the regular season and through the CHA playoffs," Read said. "We went to the regional thinking we'd just try to make the most of it. This year we're more confident going into the regional. We played against some of the top teams in Division I during the regular season and had some success against them.

"Those wins have given us confidence to believe we have a great chance to win a couple games this weekend."

One of the major differences between last year and this season is how the Beavers are entering the national tournament. Last season the Beavers finished 7-2-1 over their last 10 and entered the Big Skate on a roll.

This season the Beavers finished 5-3-2 in their last 10 games, including a loss and tie at the CHA tournament. Can the Beavers make a run after such an average lead in?

"We've had a week off to get some rest and prepare," Read said. "In the CHA Tournament, I thought we played some pretty good hockey. Niagara is a tough team - especially in their barn. In the end it was a tight game that came down who would get the last bounce. They got it; I don't think we played bad."

Against Robert Morris, Read continued, the Beavers held a 1-0 lead into the third period, then allowed three quick goals.

"Good teams find a way to come back," he said. "That's what we did and got a tie. It's pretty much the way the season went for us - find a way to get points. We did that through the whole season - and a few times against some very good teams."

The Beavers took the CHA Tournament as a learning experience, Read continued.

"That's old news for us now," he said. "We know what we need to do to be successful - be the hardest working team out there. It's not always the teams with the most talent that win. The New York Yankees don't win the World Series every year.

"Sometimes it's the team that works the hardest; the team that has the best chemistry that wins. That's our goal. The season so far has shown us one big thing - if our best effort isn't there, we don't have a chance."

Read realizes the Beavers rely heavily on him and his linemates Ian Lowe and Jordan George to score and set the pace offensively. The line has scored nearly 41 percent of the team's goals this season.

"It's great playing with those two guys," Read said. "George is a real heads up player when he wants to be. With Lowe, for me it's a lot easier to work hard and get him the puck when I know he can score."

But the Beavers are much more than just Read or the Read line. "We have experienced guys who know what it takes," he said. "Plenty of guys have scored big goals for us this year.

"We've found a way to get it done all year. Now, we just have to keep it going -- work hard and find a way."