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Hockey Day is coming to Bemidji; 13th annual event set for winter 2019

Bemidji State men's hockey team aims to find power play on road at Nebraska-Omaha

There schedule shows 10 games left in the regular season but the postseason is already here the way Bemidji State men's hockey coach Tom Serratore sees it.

"This time of year is the stretch run and we call it playoff hockey right now," he said. "I think you have to get goaltending and you have to get special teams."

The Beavers had part of that formula in last weekend's series split against Minnesota State?University, Mankato and hope to find the missing power play this weekend at Nebraska-Omaha (Friday 7:37 p.m., Saturday 7:07 p.m.).

The Beavers were 0-for-6 on the power play against Mankato and were shut down on all five times in Saturday's 5-2 loss.

"We struck out last weekend on the power play and you can't," Serratore said. "Your power play has to get it done."

Power play production has slowed in recent games for the Beavers. Since scoring three times on the power play in a 5-0 win over Alabama-Huntsville, the Beavers have scored twice on 17 attempts over the last six games.

That is a concern for BSU, which ranks second to last in WCHA goal scoring with 45 goals on the year. The Beavers have three more goals than last place Alaska-Anchorage.

"We're offensively challenged and no one is averaging four goals a game in college hockey right now," BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. "You have to get it (power play) going this time of year because now we're seeing teams a second time, and teams have tightened up for the second half of the year. There is so much at stake right now. Hockey is different this time of year than it is in November."

Bemidji State (12-12-2, 6-10-2 WCHA) has lost three of its last four games heading into the series against Omaha (12-10-4, 9-6-3 WHCA). Omaha did not play last week and split the series against Mankato with a pair of overtime games.

This weekend is a rematch of the split November series at the Sanford Center. BSU rallied to tie Omaha 3-3 in the Friday night game before the Mavericks answered with a 5-2 win Saturday to end BSU's seven-game unbeaten streak against UNO dating back to last year.

"They're going to do what they did the first series, they're going to try and outwork us and that's going to be a challenge for us to get two wins this weekend," BSU defenseman and alternate captain Jake Areshenko said.

Areshenko said recent losses have not shaken the team and many of the players are arriving early to the afternoon practices to work on various skills.

BSU hopes to return senior goalie Dan Bakala this weekend. He had 39 saves in last Friday's 2-1 win but did not dress Saturday due to an undisclosed lower body injury. He participated in practice this week and said Tuesday he hopes to play against Omaha.

Serratore said the BSU is playing some of its best hockey of the season despite the recent losses. He felt BSU's best series of the year was a December split against Denver, but did not think highly of the four wins that followed against Alabama-Huntsville and Bowling Green.

Serratore is not concerned about the team's mental state as it heads into the stretch run where six of the final 10 games will be played on the road.

Colorado College, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Alaska-Anchorage remain on BSU's regular season schedule before the first round of the playoffs.

"It's a short season right now," Serratore said. "There's six weeks left and they're playing on a lot of emotion. It's exciting. This is an exciting time of the year and this is why you play. I don't have to motivate them and they motivate themselves. I thought we're playing good hockey and I'm pretty happy with how we've played the last four games. This is the WCHA. It's a league where you can play good and still lose."

Serratore said there are no plans for an "overhaul" at this point in the season and is pleased with the team's work ethic in practices.

"I think we've had some good series as of late and it should be an exciting weekend," Areshenko said. "We're a little frustrated about losing on Saturday but we've got a hard couple weeks coming up here so we have to forget about last weekend."