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Bemidji State men's hockey Windle adds to freshman class contributions

Bemidji State's Sam Windle. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Sometimes being a freshman means listening to upperclassmen and taking advice.

Freshman Sam Windle had a short conversation on the ice prior to the face-off that led to his first career goal during Bemidji State's 6-4 win at Nebraska-Omaha last Saturday night.

"Shea Walters said if one comes back to me, 'just let it rip,' Windle said. "So it was kind of a knuckle puck. I got a lucky tip off a stick and it just went up in there."

The second-period goal off Aaron McLeod's face-off win gave Bemidji State a 3-1 lead and Windle became the latest of Bemidji State's freshman class to contribute in a timely situation this season.

Mitch Cain (Fort Frances, Ont.) and Tyler Tosunian (Whittier, Calif.) played regular roles on the third and fourth lines during the first half of the season while Danny Mattson (Richfield) worked to break into the lineup.

Goalie Andrew Walsh (Dawson Creek, B.C.) has played 11 games this season in relief of senior Dan Bakala in goal and was the Hockey Commissioners' Association National Rookie of the Month in December.

Matt Prapavessis (Oakville, Ont.) and Windle (Maple Grove) are defensive regulars this season.

The trio of Prapavessis, Windle and Mattson are providing depth and fitting into important roles as the regular season enters the final month.

"They've been producing for us," Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said of the trio. "It may not always look like it from a point standpoint, but every time they go out there they are hard to play against. They've got a backup game if they can't chip in offensively because they are good defensively."

Windle earned his chance to be a regular in the lineup when sophomore Sam Rendle was lost early on to season-ending shoulder surgery. Windle has played the last 20 straight games on the third defensive pairing.

"I just brought what I had to offer and that was my size," Windle said. "I'm not out for too many goals and I bring some length on the penalty kill to help shut teams down."

Bemidji State's penalty kill has become a strong point this year. The penalty killers are ranked No. 1 overall in the WCHA (85 percent) and No. 2 (85.2 percent) in league play.

Prapavessis is seeing time on the penalty kill and power play units. He is valued by the coaching staff for his puck-moving abilities and has played in all 28 games this season.

Prapavessis said adjusting to the speed of the game was his biggest challenge and admitted there are some nerves on the ice during critical special teams situations.

"Those first couple of games are really fast but once you get through those, you start to adjust and the game slows down a bit," he said. "Sometimes there's a lot of pressure because you want to do well for the team. When you're a young guy you don't expect to get those minutes but you take what you can get and enjoy it. It's fun."

Mattson appeared in five of the first 18 games and has found a regular role as a third line winger in nine of the last 10 games.

"At the beginning of the year it was tough being in and out of the lineup, but lately I feel like I've been playing pretty well and it's a lot more fun when you're in the lineup," Mattson said. "It was just adapting to the speed and strength, and attacking the puck rather than sitting back and waiting for stuff to happen."

His breakout game came Dec. 17 with his first goal and assist as a Beaver in the 5-0 win over Alabama-Huntsville. It started a point streak for the former Holy Angels standout with two goals and four assists over his next five games.

"I think I was just continuing to work hard and pucks were bouncing my way," Mattson said. "I had a lot more confidence than I did in the past. I felt really good so I hope that can continue."

Mattson has been unable to score in the last three games though he is seeing time on the power play in a sign of trust from the coaching staff. It is an opportunity that makes Mattson smile.

"We're very happy with those freshmen, but we still have a lot of hockey left and hopefully they can contribute even more over the course of the next eight games," Serratore said.