Beavers begin CHA playoffs against familiar foe
In the handbook of sports clich?s the one that goes "it's tough to beat a team three times in a year ..." is near the top. Well, how about five times? That's the task ahead for the Bemidji State men's hockey team as the Beavers begin the College ...
In the handbook of sports clichés the one that goes "it's tough to beat a team three times in a year ..." is near the top.
Well, how about five times?
That's the task ahead for the Bemidji State men's hockey team as the Beavers begin the College Hockey America playoffs today in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The tournament semifinal brackets are now set as Wayne State shut out Alabama-Huntsville 4-0 Friday in the play in game. That advances WSU to today's opening semifinal against the top seeded Beavers in a 1 p.m. central time start. Second seed Niagara will take on Robert Morris in the second game today.
The winners will then play for the tile in a 1 p.m. start Sunday.
Due to the unbalanced schedule of the five team CHA Bemidji State and Wayne State are no strangers, playing each other six times in the regular season. The Beavers hold a 4-2 advantage over Wayne State thus far.
The season series dates back to Nov. 16-17 as the Beavers traveled to Detroit and split, winning 3-1 before falling 5-2. The teams then played four times in Bemidji in the span of a month. In the Feb. 1-2 series the Beavers lost the opener 4-3 before winning the series finale 4-3 in overtime.
The final series on Feb. 29-March 1 held a huge importance to the Beavers. BSU knew going in a series sweep would assure the squad of the CHA regular season title.
The Beavers did just that and clinched the regular season crown, but it wasn't easy. In a wild opener BSU jumped out to a 3-1 lead, only to have Wayne State score three straight in the second period to go ahead 4-3. The Beavers tied things early in the third, but then Wayne scored again to go ahead 5-4. The Beavers then scored the next three, including an empty netter, to win 7-5.
The second game followed the same script early as the night before. BSU went ahead 1-0 and Wayne responded with a pair to go ahead 2-1. From there on, however, it was all BSU. The Beavers scored the next four to go ahead 5-2 and ice the game.
One statistics that was troublesome to BSU head coach Tom Serratore in the series was the number of shots the Beavers allowed. Wayne State had 27 the first game and 28 the second. In addition WSU also scored a power play goal in both games.
"Wayne State is a team that scares me," Serratore reported. "Yeah, we lead the series 4-2 this year, but I feel they could have won both the last two games in Bemidji. Their goaltending let them down, plus us being at home was also helpful.
"I think they are playing very well right now -- they beat Niagara last weekend and then blanked Huntsville (Friday). In the tournament I believe the two teams that are playing the best right now are Wayne State and Niagara."
One thing that has propelled Wayne State to upper echelons of the league late in the season has been the team power play. "They really have the power play clicking lately," Serratore reported. "Stavros Paskaris and Jeff Caister are key components of their power play and both have it going."
Paskaris scored a power play in Wayne State's Friday night win.
"Wayne State is playing with a lot of energy and a lot of want to right now," Serratore reported. "Now that we're playing at a neutral site, it changes the whole complexion of the game.
"It's playoff time and anything can happen. You can't afford to look ahead and must focus on the task at hand. We know we will be playing a tough team (today)."
The tournament games, Serratore continued, will come down to two key areas -- special teams and goaltending.
Assuming that's true the Beavers have been strong in both all season. Beavers senior goaltender Matt Climie has a 2.34 goals against average and .907 save percentage in CHA Tournament play, including a pair of shut outs. In addition Climie led the CHA in goals against average and winning percentage this year.
The BSU penalty kill has been among the top 10 of the nation all season, clicking at an 87 percent efficiency rate. The power play has also been strong, ending at 20.5 percent - second only to Niagara.
"Obviously, we want to hang another banner," Serratore reported. "I believe the guys know what needs to be done to win a championship. We'll see what happens, but we know nothing's going to be easy."
E Fans can follow the action in a couple of ways. The Mix 103.7 with play by play from Brian Schultz will broadcast the Beavers tourney games. Today's game may also be viewed online on the B2 Network ( www.b2livetv.com ).
Sunday's championship game can be seen on CSTV -- channel 63 on Paul Bunyan Television, channel 610 on Direct TV and channel 152 on Dish Network.