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MEN'S HOCKEY: Bemidji State has one exhibition tuneup left

BEMIDJI – For a majority of the college hockey world, the regular season started yesterday. The Bemidji State hockey team, though, is thankful to get an extra week to sort some things out.

The Beavers take on the U.S. Under-18 National Development team tonight at 7 p.m. at the Sanford Center, their final exhibition tuneup before the season begins in earnest next weekend with a home series against Lake Superior State.

And after skating to a 3-3 tie against Manitoba last Sunday, BSU head coach Tom Serratore wants to bring a more structured feel to this week’s exhibition.

“We want more structure and less chaos,” Serratore said. “We want to kind of tone things down a little bit. We’d like to tactically be a little sharper. That’s expected. I think we’ll be better this coming weekend than we were on Sunday.”

The Beavers were without a few key players last Sunday, including captain Ben Kinne, returning scoring leader Jordan George and goaltender Andrew Walsh.

Being without some of their top players didn’t hurt the Beavers, exactly, since it gave its six-man freshman class plenty of playing time.

But as the BSU players were ready to admit following the game, they didn’t do much strategically.

They just wanted to get out there and play. Understandable, considering the Beavers had only gone through a full practice twice before the Manitoba game.

“It was less structure. I think that’s fine,” senior Jake Areshenko said. “I mean, our penalty kill, we hadn’t even gone over it at all yet. I think they did very well out there. I think overall it was a decent game for everybody.”

Especially for the freshmen. Cory Ward and Brad Robbins each scored goals and Phil Brewer notched an assist in the game Sunday.

Ward said he was exited to get out there in his first college game but there’s so much more the team – and the newcomers – have to do before they’re ready.

“We’ve got to keep the process going,” he said. “We’re working on getting better as a team. We can get so much better by just playing exhibitions.”

The U.S. National team (which normally plays a USHL schedule) has played well in college exhibitions. They fell 5-0 to No. 15 Wisconsin but skated to a 1-1 tie with No. 13 Notre Dame. They took on No. 4 North Dakota Friday; UND won 6-4.

Big signing for BSU

Former Moorhead High School standout Michael Bitzer will be coming back to Bemidji soon. But luckily for Bemidji State fans, he won’t be in the opposing net.

The 18-year-old former Spud made a verbal commitment to play for the Bemidji State hockey team, the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported Friday.

In March, Bitzer won the Frank Brimsek Award for Minnesota’s best senior goaltender as a member of the Moorhead hockey team, after going 18-9-2 with a 2.30 GAA and helping the Spuds reach the state tournament.

In May, he was selected in the second round of the USHL Entry Draft by the Lincoln Stars and Friday he picked Bemidji State over Bowling Green and Minnesota State University Mankato to continue his hockey career.

“I’ve been talking to Bemidji since the end of last year,” Bitzer told the Forum. “It’s close to home, it’s a team I’ve been able to watch play before and they have a new facility. The rink is unbelievable and the coaches seem to have faith in me.”

Bitzer told the Forum that he will join Bemidji State next season or the season after.

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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