MEN’S HOCKEY: Bemidji State’s Brad Johnson and Ethan Somoza to return in 2021-22

Brad Johnson and Ethan Somoza will use an extra year of eligibility and return to the Bemidji State men’s hockey team in 2021-22, the school announced Wednesday.

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Bemidji State players Ethan Somoza (9), Tyler Vold (22) and Tyler Kirkup (27) celebrate after Brad Johnson (18) scored in the second period against Minnesota State on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021 at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Two seniors from Bemidji State’s NCAA Tournament team will be back for a fifth season.

Brad Johnson and Ethan Somoza will use an extra year of eligibility and return to the BSU men’s hockey team, the school announced Wednesday.

Johnson and Somoza were seniors in 2020-21 and have each played four seasons for the Beavers. The duo will take advantage of the NCAA’s offer to grant athletes an extra year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic causing a delayed and shortened 2020-21 season.

“It’s great that they want to come back from the standpoint that they’re both high character guys,” head coach Tom Serratore said. “They’re tight with the junior class, they really like our team and they want to be part of it for another year. … We’re happy to have them back.”

Somoza, a forward and team captain, led Bemidji State with 15 goals and was third in scoring with 20 points during 2020-21. Johnson, a defenseman and alternate captain, was second in scoring among the team’s blueliners with 10 points (3g-7a). They will each complete their business administration coursework and pursue MBA degrees while returning to the program in 2021-22.


“To be able to come back and get the full experience and play a full schedule for my senior season is an exciting opportunity,” Somoza said in a news release. “I think we have a really good group coming back. I want to be a part of this team for as long as I can and lead it as far as I can. We got a taste of the tournament this year. Now we want more.”

“Looking back at last season and all the extra issues we had to deal with because of COVID, our team was still able to have success. To be able to come back and compete again with this special group of guys is a great opportunity,” Johnson added. “Also, being able to complete my MBA at Bemidji State will open doors for me in whatever career path I choose. I am grateful for the opportunity.”

Serratore said he does not expect any of the team’s other four seniors -- goalie Zach Driscoll, defenseman Tyler Vold and forwards Brendan Harris and Aaron Miller -- to return next season.

“I doubt it,” he said. “You only have so many roster spots, as well. Nobody else voiced any interest about that. I think they’re ready for that next stage of their life, whether that’s pro hockey or the real world.”

When reached by text message Wednesday afternoon, Driscoll said he hadn’t made any final decisions about his future yet and is still weighing a couple of different options. “I hope to have my decision made in the next week or so,” the netminder said.

Driscoll graduated in spring 2020 and has been pursuing his MBA in 2020-21.

Whether a player comes back or not, Serratore said he supports their decision.

“Everybody’s just got different plans and that’s life. You’re excited for everyone of them,” Serratore said. “Whatever they want to do, you’re behind your guys as a coach. I tell every one of my seniors when they leave the program, ‘I’m there for you now. Whatever you need, give me a call.’”


Teams across the country, not just Bemidji State, will likely carry larger rosters than usual because of the COVID-19 eligibility waiver.

“We’re going to have a larger roster next year because of this,” Serratore said. “There’s just no way around it.”

Student-athletes normally have five years to play four seasons in their sport. Because of the pandemic, the NCAA has granted student-athletes six years to play five seasons, regardless of how many games they competed in during 2020-21.

The Beavers finished 16-10-3 in 2020-21 and earned the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 2010, knocking off Wisconsin in the regional semifinals before falling to Massachusetts in the regional final.

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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