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Opening night: Bemidji State men's hockey team kicks off against Manitoba

The Bemidji State University men’s hockey team began practice Friday afternoon at Neilson-Reise Arena. The men’s team will play their first exhibition game at 5 p.m. today against the University of Manitoba. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – The snow showers that hit Bemidji Thursday and Friday couldn’t have been timed any better. They signalled the coming of winter. And hockey season.

The Bemidji State hockey team hits the ice at the Sanford Center at 5 p.m. today for its season-opening exhibition game against the University of Manitoba. And the Beavers have been eager to get the season started ever since they began captains practices early in September.

“They’re excited. You could tell,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said Friday, when the Beavers had their first full practice at Neilson-Reise Arena. “It’s been a long month of them practicing together and they wanted to get into it.”

The Beavers haven’t logged many hours of practice coming into today’s exhibition. Serratore said he doesn’t expect much structure as far as strategy is concerned.

“Even though our upperclassmen know our systems, it just takes a while,” Serratore said. “There’s a lot of repetition that’s involved and that’s going to take a couple days.

“The biggest thing is making sure we have good habits. (Today), we want to make sure was have good habits, good work ethic and good execution. We’ll take short shifts and compete hard. You really just want their hockey sense to take over and make plays.”

To that end, Serratore also expects all of his freshmen to get lots of minutes against the Bison today. The six-strong class consists of three forwards (Markus Gerbrandt, Brad Robbins and Cory Ward), two defenseman (James Hansen and Graeme McCormack) and a goaltender (Fabian Sivnert).

“We want to get a look at those guys and make sure the young kids get some game experience, see what they look like under fire,” Serratore said.

As far as the upperclassmen are concerned, it’s business as usual. For one of those returners, defenseman Matt Prapavessis, it’s all about getting back into a routine.

“We just want to get back up to speed,” he said. “We’re trying to get clicking with passing and get familiar with the guys. The new guys want to see the habits of the older players.

“Right now everyone’s still getting acclimated. They’re getting there, and everyone’s contributing right now, so it’s good to see.”

The Beavers will see a Manitoba team that has already played seven games coming into tonight. They’ve taken on a few Canadian schools in their own regular season before facing North Dakota and Bemidji State in exhibition games on back-to-back nights.

Serratore expects a competitive game, despite the fact that it’s just an exhibition.

“Manitoba’s been playing for about three weeks to a month, so they’ve had a few more games and they’ve played a little longer,” Serratore said. “They’re a good hockey team, well coached, and we’ve had a good rivalry with these guys in the past so it should be a competitive game.”

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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