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HOCKEY: Bemidji State men eager to hit the ice after bye week

BEMIDJI – The Bemidji State men’s hockey team likes a little bit of rest, but if it’s all the same, most of the Beavers would have preferred to hit the ice last weekend.

“I wish we would have played,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said, acknowledging it’s just the way the schedule happened to shake out this year. “It’s a bit early, but that’s just the way the schedule worked. We have no control over that.

“But you’d rather play early on. It is what it is.”

After earning four points at Nebraska-Omaha Oct. 26-27, the Beavers got a break. The timing certainly wasn’t ideal. The Beavers have only played four games this year, as they played an exhibition game in the first week of the season when most teams were playing nonconference opponents.

But starting with this weekend’s WCHA series at Colorado College, BSU has six straight weekends of hockey.

It gives the Beavers a chance to do something they haven’t been able to do: Gain some momentum.

“It would be nice to get on a roll a little bit now,” senior forward Brance Orban said. “Now we’re playing every weekend and don’t have any more bye weeks left. It’s just games right until Christmastime now, so hopefully we can pick up where we left off against Omaha.”

The Beavers, now 2-1-1 overall and 1-0-1 in the WCHA, left Omaha, Neb., the same way they have in the past – unbeaten.

They tied the Mavericks 3-3 in the first game before winning 3-2 in game two. They hope some of that physical play can carry over in this weekend’s trip to Colorado Springs, Colo.

“It definitely would have been nice to play last weekend, just with the way we were rolling in Omaha,” said BSU sophomore goaltender Andrew Walsh. “But I think we were productive with our off week. We improved in some areas that we wanted to so I think it will be a benefit for us.”

Walsh has been the primary reason for BSU’s early success. In four games this year he’s given up only six goals and made 127 saves for a 1.48 GAA and .955 save percentage.

Serratore said Walsh will again be key against Colorado College, which is coming off a sweep of Wisconsin on the road.

“I think Andrew’s been our best player so far this year,” Serratore said. “He’s given up six goals. He’s been our rock.

“He’s going to have to continue doing that, because they’re going to get some scoring chances this weekend, and he’s going to have to be the backbone of our defense. He knows that, and hopefully we support him by taking care of the puck.”

The Tigers are 5-3 and 2-0 in conference play but have scored 27 goals – second-most in the WCHA. Four different players have scored four goals for the Tigers, including junior winger Alexander Krushelnyski, who has scored in CC’s last three games.

Junior defenseman Eamonn McDermott leads the team in points, with eight assists to his name and eight points.

“They have an abundance of talent, and they have a lot of confidence from sweeping Wisconsin on the road,” Serratore said of CC’s deep roster. “You don’t just go into the Kohl Center and take four points, so it tells you a lot about CC.”

The Tigers also skate on an Olympic-sized ice sheet at their home World Arena, so that makes them an especially tough opponent to play on the road.

“They have that big ice there, so they like to build a team with some fast guys,” Walsh said. “They have a lot of rush offense. We’ve been getting ready for that. But I think if we go in there and play our game – we’ve got a fast team, too, and we’re pretty physical – we’ll be just fine.”

BSU, like CC, has also spread their scoring opportunities around, only with fewer games played than most teams.

Radoslov Illo and David Boehm are tied for the team lead in goals with two apiece, while seven other players have scored once, including Orban. He said the Beavers have matched up well with the Tigers in the past, so he thinks they have a good shot at earning some points in Colorado.

“I feel like we’ve matched up pretty well against them in the past, but it’s a big sheet of ice,” he said. “So we have to move our feet, separate and make plays out there if we want to get some points.”