Bemidji State men's hockey: Huge weekend awaits Beavers against Niagara

It's a historic weekend ahead for the Bemidji State men's hockey team as the final two games ever to be played at the John Glas Fieldhouse will be contested.

Matt Read and the Bemidji State men's hockey team host Niagara Friday and Saturday in the home series finale and the final games ever at John Glas Fieldhouse. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

It's a historic weekend ahead for the Bemidji State men's hockey team as the final two games ever to be played at the John Glas Fieldhouse will be contested.

Major ceremonies are planned for both games, honoring the players, teams and coaches who contributed to the rich 43-year history of the venerable building.

There will be a couple of actual hockey games played, too.

The No. 7/9 Beavers (19-7-2, 11-3-0 CHA) can clinch their third straight College Hockey America regular season crown with a win tonight against league rival Niagara University (7-16-4, 2-7-2 CHA). The game is set for a 7:35 p.m. start with the finale scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Saturday.

"I'm glad we are closing his chapter of Beaver hockey history with games against Niagara," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "In the years we have been in the CHA, we've had our best games with Niagara.


"We have the most respect for Niagara of all the teams in the league - year in and year out. When we get together, it always seems to be a great game; there's no chirping out there and the guys play hard.

"I think there's a real mutual respect between the programs. I believe a lot of the many positive qualities of the program can be attributed to their coach, Dave Burkholder."

The Beavers are coming off a road split with Robert Morris University, falling 5-2 in the opener before rebounding to win 5-2 Saturday.

"It was a good college hockey series," Serratore reported. "Overall, we played well. There was a lot of intensity and tactically we were strong.

"As everyone knows, hockey is a game of breaks and they got them on Friday. We played very well in the first period and would have liked to get the early lead. But they scored late and we were behind 1-0."

Robert Morris slowly pulled away after that, eventually building a 4-0 lead early in the third. The Beavers scored a couple of goals late, but it was not nearly enough.

All that changed in the Saturday finale, Serratore reported. "This time we played strong out of the gate and got the early lead. They came back to tie it 2-2, but we quickly responded to regain the two goal lead.

"It was playoff hockey; they were both tough games against two teams that were evenly matched."


Saturday's game marked a rare goalie change for the Beavers. Regular goaltender Dan Bakala was pulled after RMU's fourth goal Friday and replaced by freshman Mathieu Dugas. The frosh then got the start, and the win, on Saturday.

"(Bakala) let in a couple soft ones on Friday," Serratore reported. "(Dugas) had earned the chance to get a start and he played well in a tough situation."

This will mark the third and final regular season series of the year between the two trams. BSU swept the Purple Eagles in Bemidji 8-2 and 3-2 in December. Niagara came back to earn a split at home, winning 6-4 before falling 4-3.

Niagara has struggled this season, getting off to a slow start, warming up a bit and then being inconsistent as of late. The Purple Eagles are 1-3-2 in their last six games, including a 3-2 loss to Alabama-Huntsville last Friday.

Regardless of the record, the Beavers and Niagara games always seem to be real battles. Blowout wins for either side have been very rare.

"They definitely have a team that scares me," Serratore reported. "They have an outstanding group of seniors. They lost so many close games this season that I don't think they are far from really putting it together.

"In talking with the Niagara coaching staff, they think they have a team that can really make some noise going into the playoffs."

Senior forward Chris Moran paces the Purple Eagles in scoring with 32 points on seven goals and 25 assists. Senior Ryan Olidis leads the team in goals with 13. No other Niagara player has goals in double figures.


Sophomore Chris Noonan (4-8-1, 3.44, .906) and junior Adam Avramenko (2-4-3, 3.11, .899) have seen the majority of action in goal for Niagara, which has allowed an average of 3.6 goals per game.

"I really believe this is a series between two very good teams," Serratore said, "and whoever makes the most breaks will win.

"Both teams are fighting for something. We want to keep winning and clinch the CHA regular season title. They really don't want to finish last in the league.

"We need to keep winning, If we don't, we could slip fast in both the Ratings Percentage Index and the PairWise rakings."

Both are ranking that are used by the selection committee to decide on the at-large teams that will be placed in the NCAA Tournament. The Beavers are solidly positioned, standing in a three-way tie for fourth in the PairWise and sixth in the RPI.

A top 10 finish in the PairWise would almost certainly ensure the Beavers an at-large berth. But to get there, the Beavers must continue winning, as Serratore said.

BSU now has three players who have reached double figures in goal scoring, with three more on the verge.

Junior Matt Read leads the team in points with 32 on 14 goals and 18 assists. Junior Ian Lowe is tied with Read for the team lead in goals and has added nine assists for 23 points.


Freshman Jordan George is second on the team in points with 30 (13 goals-17 assists) and is third nationally among freshman, averaging 1.11 points per game.

Sophomore defender Brad Hunt is third on the team in scoring with 26 points (7 goals-19 assists) -- a mark that is fifth nationally among defensemen.

Sophomore goalie Dan Bakala is sixth nationally in winning percentage (15-5-2, .727), ninth in goals against average (2.21) and 10th in save percentage (.922).

Bemidji State currently ranks fourth nationally in defense, allowing just 2.25 goals per game. The offense is ranked sixth, averaging 3.61 goals per game.

The Beavers also rank third in team winning percentage at 19-7-2 (.714).

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