MEN'S HOCKEY: Beavers look to take NCAA fate in their own hands

Depending on who you ask, Bemidji State is already safely in the NCAA Tournament field, or still has some work to do. The fourth-seeded Beavers will travel to Mankato to square off with No. 2 seed Lake Superior State in the WCHA semifinals at 7:37 p.m. on Friday, March 19.

031721.S.BP.BSUMHKY Owen Sillinger.jpg
Bemidji State junior Owen Sillinger (12) controls the puck near the Michigan Tech net in the second period of Friday’s game at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Depending on who you ask, the Bemidji State men’s hockey team is already safely in the NCAA Tournament field, or still has some work to do.

Either way, the Beavers don’t want the selection committee to determine their fate. They want to remove all doubt by capturing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association postseason title, and with it, an automatic berth to the Big Dance.

“We don’t want to leave it up to the committee,” sophomore defenseman Kyle Looft said.

Fourth-seeded BSU will travel to Mankato to square off with No. 2 seed Lake Superior State in the WCHA semifinals at 7:37 p.m. on Friday, March 19. Top-seeded Minnesota State and No. 6 seed Northern Michigan will meet at 2:07 p.m. Friday in the other semifinal. Friday’s victors will clash for the league title at 7:07 p.m. Saturday, March 20.

“We know that it’s a privilege to be in this position,” said junior forward Owen Sillinger, who returned from a month-long injury absence Friday. “But we’re not looking past it. We’re not going there just to be happy to be there. We’re going to try to win.”


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Bemidji State (15-8-3) earned its spot in Mankato by sweeping Michigan Tech in last weekend’s quarterfinals by scores of 3-1 and 4-1. Likewise, the Lakers (17-6-3) took down Alabama Huntsville with wins of 6-1 and 4-1.

The weekend results paved the way for the Beavers to enter the 15-team USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Division I poll at No. 12. BSU also climbed two spots in the 20-team poll to No. 13. LSSU is No. 17 in the USCHO poll and unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.

Until the selection committee reveals its picks on Selection Sunday, March 21, only the nation’s six conference tournament champions will be certain of an NCAA bid.

Bemidji State appears to be in a good position to make the field.

College Hockey News’s latest “Power 16” ranking tool has the Beavers at No. 12, and posits that the team should make the tournament regardless of what happens in Friday’s semifinal. The committee will ultimately have the final say.

At the same time, Lake Superior State also wants to shore up its resume with a win Friday in hopes of obtaining an at-large bid.

“It’s a huge game. There’s no question about that,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “But you don’t change anything. … We’re not approaching the game on Friday any differently than we approached the games last weekend.”


Whatever transpires on the ice this weekend, Bemidji State hopes to come out on the other side with its fifth NCAA Tournament bid in the program’s Division I era, and its first since 2009-10.

A look at the Lakers

Lake Superior State and Bemidji State last met only two weeks ago in a regular-season WCHA series at the Sanford Center, March 2-3. The Lakers secured four out of six league points, claiming one in a 2-1 overtime loss before capturing three more in a 5-2 victory after scoring three third-period goals to break a 2-2 tie.

The same teams met in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., in a nonconference series Jan. 2-3. BSU earned a 4-1 win in the first game before the teams played to a 2-2 tie in the second.

The schools are set to meet for the third consecutive postseason. The Beavers won a WCHA quarterfinal series in three games last year after getting swept at Lake State in the quarterfinals in 2019.

“There’s no secrets between the two teams,” Serratore said. “We’ve played each other a lot.”

Since the 5-2 loss to LSSU, Bemidji State has outscored its opponents 13-2 over four games, including two shutouts from goaltender Zach Driscoll and the defensive corps.

“We haven’t given up many goals in the last however many games,” Looft said. “That’s very important to winning hockey games. Coach always talks about being the first to (score) three goals, and I feel like we’ve done a good job of that.”

At a glance


Who: BSU vs. Lake Superior State

What: WCHA semifinals

Where: Mankato

When: 7:37 p.m. Friday

Radio: Beaver Radio Network/92.1 FM

Web stream:


030621.S.BP.BSUMHKY2 Alex Ierullo.jpg
Bemidji State junior Alex Ierullo (14) challenges goalie Mareks Mitens (3) and the Lake Superior State defense in the first period on March 2 at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Austin Monteith is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of Bloomington, Ill., he is a 2015 graduate of Butler University. Follow him on Twitter at @amonteith92. Contact the Pioneer sports department at
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