Beavers face Robert Morris in key CHA series
The latest act in the Bemidji State men's hockey road show continues this week as the Beavers head to Pittsburgh, Penn. to take on Robert Morris. This has suddenly become a key College Hockey America series. The Colonials (11-13-1, 7-7 CHA) vault...
The latest act in the Bemidji State men's hockey road show continues this week as the Beavers head to Pittsburgh, Penn. to take on Robert Morris.
This has suddenly become a key College Hockey America series. The Colonials (11-13-1, 7-7 CHA) vaulted themselves into the race for a top three spot in the league, and a first round CHA tourney bye, by sweeping then-league leading Niagara 7-1 and 5-2 last weekend.
The sweep dropped Niagara (17-10-3, 8-3-3 CHA) to second in the CHA. Along with a win and a tie by the Beavers (13-9-4, 8-2-4 CHA) at Alabama-Huntsville the Beavers took over the league's top spot. The series this weekend could go along way in deciding the ultimate CHA regular season champ and the top seed in the tournament.
"Robert Morris has become a huge factor in the league now," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "The players are maturing after being in the league for three years and are juniors now. They have become a difficult team to play against."
The CHA upstart has proven that this year, defeating the Beavers at The Glas 3-2 earlier in the season, plus Niagara three times in their six game regular season series. In addition Robert Morris holds wins against nationally ranked Notre Dame and Merrimack .
"They have a big team that works hard and gets strong goaltending," Serratore reported. "Recently, they've started scoring goals as well."
RMU junior Sean Berkstresser was named the Inside College Hockey.com Player of the Week, following his seven point week against Niagara and a win over Princeton. He had two goals and two assists in the RMU big 7-1 win over Niagara in the series opener.
Similar to the Beavers RMU has utilized a scoring by committee approach most of this year. While no one on the team has scored as many as 10 goals, 10 players have scored in double figures for total points. Niagara transfer Aaron Clark leads the Colonials with nine goals and 16 assist for 25 points. He's closely followed by Ryan Cruthers (8-16--24) and Doug Conley (5-14--19).
As a team RMU averages 2.9 goals per game, while allowing 3.4. The Beavers stand at 3.1 and 3.2, repectively.
The RMU scoring average took a huge boost last weekend against Niagara with the 12 goals scored.
Premier goaltender Christian Boucher has seen the most action in net for the Colonials this year, sporting a record of 7-9-1 with a 3.49 goals against average and .901 save percentage. Boucher has shown in the program's three years at the DI level that he has the ability to take over a game.
Boucher has been strongly supported in net by Joe Tuset, who has played in 10 games and started eight. He has a 4-4-0 record with a 2.33 goals against average and .931 save percentage.
The Beavers are coming off the most successful trip south in the program's history, getting three points at UAH.
"Our message when going to Huntsville has always been to expect the unexpected," Serratore said. "We've played many games there where you just throw out the coaching philosophy, sit back and see what happens. The 5-5 tie was that type of situation.
"It was an odd game. We gave up leads, came back to get leads and ended up with a tie. It was what it was. I thought we played much better Saturday (a 3-1 win). We had a very good first period and then relied a bit on (BSU goalie Matt Climie) in the second. The third period had a good flow and was some very good hockey."
The Beavers remember very well it was Robert Morris that gave the Beavers their last loss in the league. Since that loss, however, the Beavers have gone 8-0-3 in the CHA - an 11 game unbeaten streak that has set a new school record.
"Overall, I'm happy with the way we're playing right now," Serratore reported. "Our league is so difficult. This year, I can honestly say I'm concerned about every team in the league. All five teams will enter the league tournament legitimately thinking they have a good shot at winning. I think there a one goal differential between all teams."
While the Beavers have been playing well, Serratore said he's a bit concerned with the team's consistency. "I don't know that we're had many games where we put in a full 60 minutes," he said. "As a coach, you're always looking for that perfection. There definitely room for improvement - we'll see if we get there."
This weekend could mark the return of senior Luke Erickson to the BSU line up. Serratore said the senior forward has been skating well in practice and could be in the line up this weekend.
"We still have some concern about how well he'll handle incidental contact during a regular game," Serratore said. "This is a big series for us, but I'd like to see him take another weekend off. We'll see."
Sophomore Brandon Marino missed the Alabama series with a shoulder injury, but will definitely be back this week, Serratore said.