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MEN'S HOCKEY: Beavers open WCHA playoffs at top-seeded Ferris State

BSU forward Nate Arentz and Ferris State’s Brandon Anselmini collide in front of the Ferris bench during a game in Bemidji last month. The Beavers travel to Big Rapids, Mich., to take on the Bulldogs in their first round playoff series this weekend. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — The Bemidji State University men's hockey team had to hold its breath and take a couple of punches to the gut, but the Beavers made the WCHA playoffs.

Just barely.

Despite being swept by Bowling Green last weekend in the final series of the regular season, the Beavers got some help when Ferris State simultaneously swept away Lake Superior State.

And although BSU hasn’t looked much like a playoff team recently — the Beavers have lost six of their last eight and gave up 10 goals against the Falcons — head coach Tom Serratore said all that matters is they’re in.

“Whether we back into the playoffs or not, the bottom line is, with our body of work through the year, we earned the right to go to the playoffs,” Serratore said. “It’s a new season right now, everyone is 0-0. We’ve very upbeat and very excited about going to Ferris State.”

The Beavers (10-19-7, 10-14-4 WCHA) take on newly minted league champion Ferris State (25-9-3, 20-6-2 WCHA) in their best-of-three first-round playoff series starting at 6:07 p.m. today in Big Rapids, Mich. Game 2 is set for 6:07 p.m. Saturday and Game 3, if necessary, will begin at 4:07 p.m. Sunday.

“We know they’re a good team,” BSU sophomore forward Markus Gerbrandt said. “They’re No. 1 for a reason. They keep things simple. In their D-zone they’re chipping pucks off the glass and off the boards. Up front they have skill, too. They know how to put the puck in the net.”

The eighth-seeded Beavers are 1-3 against the Bulldogs this season, and the one win came at the Sanford Center a month ago. The Bulldogs are nearly unbeatable at home in cozy Ewigleben Ice Arena, where they’ve lost only once this year.

The Beavers know puck management and strong special teams will be the key to having a chance against the Bulldogs. BSU gave up four power play goals last weekend against Bowling Green and were held scoreless in nine power play chances.

“We’re working on special teams for sure,” Serratore said. “You don’t want to totally panic as far as the penalty kill goes. Last weekend we gave up four goals, and that’s not characteristic of our team. We just have to make sure we’re a little sharper, pay attention to more detail as far as what they do on the power play.”

As for the BSU power play, Serratore said he liked what the team was doing on the man advantage but they need to work harder at putting pucks on net. BSU has scored just one power play goal in the last five games.

“We’re working hard to get shots to the net, getting second and third opportunities off that,” he said. “We feel like we have the right makeup on our power play, we just have to make sure we gain a little confidence and have some success early.”

The last time the Beavers played the Bulldogs — Feb. 14 and 15 — they were also held scoreless on the man advantage. Ferris State won the Friday game 4-1 but BSU escaped with a 2-1 upset win on Saturday.

Freshman forward Nate Arentz said the win gave the Beavers a little confidence that they can hang with the Bulldogs.

“Last time we played them we won so it’s always good to know that we can beat a team,” Arentz said.

Arentz was injured the last time BSU went to Big Rapids — Nov. 8 and 9 — but said their rink has similarities to Bowling Green’s.

“They said it was pretty loud and similar to Bowling Green,” he said. “We have to take care of pucks and work hard and good things should happen.”

And even though BSU snuck into the playoffs this time around, the Beavers said they need to make sure they put their last few games behind them.

“It was frustrating last weekend, but we’re done with it,” Gerbrandt said. “It’s in the past. We know we can beat Ferris State. We did it a couple weeks ago.

“We have to have a good mindset and be focused on what they’re going to bring.”

Prapavessis, Pedan named all-WCHA

The league Thursday announced its all-league awards and BSU defensemen Matt Prapavessis and Ruslan Pedan were both honored.

Prapavessis, a junior captain from Oakville, Ontario, was named to the all-WCHA third team. Prapavessis has five goals and 17 assists in 36 games played for 22 points and is tied for second in the league in defensemen scoring. He has 72 blocked shots to lead the BSU.

Pedan, a freshman from Moscow, was named to the league’s all-rookie team. Pedan has three goals and 10 assists on the year and is tied for 13th in defensemen scoring.

As for the other league awards, Alaska’s Cody Kunyk was named WCHA player of the year while his teammate Colton Parayko was named defensive player of the year. Lake Superior State’s Alex Globke was rookie of the year, Minnesota State’s Cole Huggins was goaltending champion and Ferris State’s Bob Daniels was coach of the year.

BSU gets big forward commit

BSU has added another player to its impressive list of recruits for next season.

The Rochester Post-Bulletin reported Wednesday that Austin Bruins forward Jay Dickman has committed to BSU and will join the Beavers for the 2014-15 season.

Dickman, a big (6-foot-6, 225 pound) forward, is the top scorer on the Bruins with 55 points in 53 games. He’s third in the NAHL overall.

The Shoreview native and St. Paul Johnson graduate has BSU ties — cousins Bill and Bryce Methven played for the Beavers from 2000-2004.

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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