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Bemidji State men's hockey team skates on BREC ice for the first time in intrasquad scrimmage

Bemidji State freshman Jeff Jubinville, left, and senior captain Matt Read, right, battle for the puck during Saturday's scrimmage. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

The Bemidji State men's hockey team experienced a series of firsts at the Bemidji Regional Event Center over the weekend.

After stepping inside the locker room for the first time Friday night to move in their equipment, the players skated on the BREC ice for the first time Saturday afternoon in an intrasquad scrimmage.

The awe factor experienced by the estimated 1,500 mostly first-time visitors to the BREC for Saturday's open house was shared by the players.

"I really can't describe what this feels like," BSU senior Ian Lowe said with a smile. "This is really unreal and unbelievable. It's more than I could have imagined and the place really impressed me."

Lowe unofficially scored the first goal in the BREC, added another and Team White defeated Team Green 4-1 in the simulated two-period game.

Brad Hunt, Emil Billberg and Jordan George also scored goals.

The Beavers stayed after the game and signed autographs for the fans who took in the free event.

"Being in here for the first time just shows how great of a place this building is," senior captain Matt Read said. "It was good to get this in because next Friday we're going to be playing in a real game."

That Friday game is the season-opener, WCHA opener and first official game in the BREC against North Dakota.

Bemidji State was the only WCHA team to not open regular season play this weekend. The players said the simulated game was a good tune-up for North Dakota and a beneficial experience.

The team worked on full strength, power play and four-on-four hockey situations during the 20-minute periods. Goalies Dan Bakala, Mathieu Dugas and Travis Bosch all saw time in the net.

"It was good to go out there and get the feeling of what a real game is going to be like in the building," Read said. "Being we were split up, we had three lines out there and it felt like a game situation and a walkthrough."

The Beavers have practiced at Neilson-Reise Arena the last few weeks while some of the final touches were put on the BREC. With days remaining until the regular season begins, one of the concerns for the players was ice quality.

Lowe gave it his seal of approval.

"I honestly didn't think the ice was going to be good at all and I can say that the ice was real good. It's like we've skated on it all winter," he said.

Though there are still areas to touch up around the arena - the student section bleacher seats are still in boxes - the Beavers are starting to settle in their new home.

"There's one word you can use to sum all this up and that word is 'amazing,'" junior defenseman Brad Hunt said. "Just by seeing all the people who showed up here today at the scrimmage shows the support we have in our community. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them."

As much as the players enjoyed the new atmosphere during the scrimmage, Hunt said the team is focused and will be ready to play North Dakota.

The Fighting Sioux were the consensus pick to win the WCHA in the recent preseason coaches poll. UND tied Alaska-Anchorage 5-5 in its first game of the year Friday and defeated Alaska-Fairbanks 3-1 Saturday.

"This scrimmage was good because we were able to get into the flow of a game, get used to the TV timeouts and really get that shock factor out of our system," Hunt said. "Next week we're just going to be ready to play and get back into the business of hockey ... We'll be ready. We're capable and though we might be a little nervous next week, once the puck drops we will be fine. We've played all these same teams before. Everything is all the same for us. We're just in a new league."