Beavers prepare for playoffs against USA Under 18 team

The 2006-07 regular season now in the books the Bemidji State men's hockey team prepares for the College Hockey America playoffs against the USA Under-18 team this weekend at The Glas.

The 2006-07 regular season now in the books the Bemidji State men's hockey team prepares for the College Hockey America playoffs against the USA Under-18 team this weekend at The Glas.

The Beavers won't know where they will end up in the standings until the conclusion of this weekend's action. With 23 points the Beavers know they will end either second or third, depending on the outcome of the Robert Morris (19 points)/Wayne State series in Pittsburgh.

A Robert Morris sweep would give the Colonials four points and a second place league finish, since RMU holds the tiebreaker over Bemidji State.

It matters little, however, in terms of tournament pairings. Bemidji State will face Robert Morris in one semifinal final of the CHS Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa March 10.

Niagara (23 points) can wrap up first place in the league and a date against the winner of the play-in game at the CHA tournament by earning one point in this weekend's series at Alabama-Huntsville.


Wayne State and Alabama-Huntsville will face off in the play in game March 9. Thier exact seeds won't be decided until the weekend's play is concluded.

The biggest thing for the Beavers now is that they find themselves at home, after facing a brutal 20-game road schedule this season. BSU coach Tom Serratore is hoping an extended period at home will do a lot to prepare the Beavers for a CHA Tournament championship run.

Wins and losses won't be the focus for BSU this weekend. "No doubt we'll be playing to win," Serratore reported. "We want to go into the CHA tournament with the best mindset possible. I'm not going to be losing sleep over wins and losses this weekend.

"But we haven't been playing like we are capable of playing lately - we've been a little stale. We're at the point where we're looking for anything positive to get us out of the little funk we've been in the last few weekends."

Serratore said he believes the players will be in the same mindset. "They know these games aren't for keeps," he said. "But I believe they want to be in the best situation possible going into the tournament."

In terms of talent on the ice, the games this weekend will be a showcase. "They have six or seven players who are being projected as first-round NHL picks," Serratore reported. "Look at the places these guys will be playing next year - Boston University, North Dakota, New Hampshire.

"A majority of the NHL teams will be represented at this series - scouts, player personnel staff and the like. It's going to be exciting hockey from that standpoint."

The U.S. National Under 18 team is 5-9-2 against NCAA DI opponents this season, which includes overtime losses at the hands of Michigan, Boston College, Northern Michigan, and Wayne State. Robert Morris tied the team 2-2 in November.


Serratore reported the under 18 team is big, much bigger than the Beavers, and skates very well. "They play a pro-style game, so this weekend is going to be difficult for us. They have a quality bunch of players."

Under 18 team coach Ron Rolston, in his third season with the USA Hockey National Team Development program, said his squad is excited about the trip to Bemidji.

"We are fortunate to play against NCAA competition so late in the season," he said. "We are looking forward to these games as our final opportunity to challenge ourselves against older and more experienced competition."

The US squad features three Minnesotans, including Cade Fairchild of Duluth, Mike Hoeffel of North Oaks and Brennan Vargas of Coon Rapids.

BSU freshman defender John Vadnais played the 2002-03 season at the NTDP, recording 10 points in 62 games for team USA.

"Playing a two-game series against a quality program like Bemidji State, which is a legitimate top 25 program in the nation, will provide a great evaluation for these NDTP kids," Serratore reported. "The eyes of the pro hockey world will be on this series this weekend. These kids will be playing for draft position and future pro contracts. They'll want to show their stuff, no doubt."

It's interesting to note how the eyes of the hockey world will be on BSU and Bemidji this weekend, just a little over two weeks after University President John Quistgaard announced the future viability of the men's hockey program is in doubt.

If BSU was a NCAA DIII school or didn't have a men's hockey program Team USA, and all the associated attention, would more than likely not be here.

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