MEN’S HOCKEY: Tom Serratore, Beavers happy to be invited to Big Dance
Tom Serratore wasn’t worried on Selection Sunday. The coach was confident his Bemidji State men’s hockey team would earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Once Sunday evening rolled around, Serratore could officially set aside any lingering doubts.
Tom Serratore wasn’t worried on Selection Sunday.
The coach was confident his Bemidji State men’s hockey team would earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“I had a very good feeling,” he said. “Our body of work was very strong throughout the year.”
Once Sunday evening rolled around, Serratore could officially set aside any lingering doubts.
The Beavers were in the tournament.
BSU secured its first NCAA bid in 11 years, and its fifth ever as a Division I program.
“I’m happy for the players, the alumni, the community,” Serratore said. “It’s just a fun time playing in the NCAA Tournament.”
A year ago, Bemidji State was in a good position to potentially earn its first trip to the Big Dance in a decade. Then the coronavirus pandemic reared its ugly head and wiped out the rest of the season just as the Beavers were set to play in the WCHA semifinals.
NCAA dreams deferred, BSU was finally rewarded Sunday.
“The guys have put in a lot of hard work over the last two years, and it’s really nice to get rewarded this year,” Serratore said.
Team members watched the selection show separately on their own before convening for a brief, and celebratory, meeting shortly thereafter.
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Top-seeded Wisconsin awaits in the East Regional semifinals. Fourth-seeded Bemidji State will travel to Bridgeport, Conn., for the contest, which is scheduled to begin at noon central time on Friday, March 26.
The Beavers will be the underdogs against the Badgers and Hobey Baker Award favorite Cole Caufield, the nation’s leading scorer in points (49) and goals (28).
Serratore isn’t concerned with who his team will face.
“It doesn’t matter who you play,” Serratore said. “You want to make it to the tournament. We’re excited to play in the tournament. It doesn’t matter. We’d go play the Tampa Bay Lightning in Tampa if they wanted us to right now.”
The WCHA landed three teams in the 16-team NCAA field for the first time since the 2013-14 conference realignment. Minnesota State garnered the No. 2 seed in the West Regional and league autobid Lake Superior State earned the No. 3 seed in Bridgeport, where the Lakers will face No. 2 seed Massachusetts in the other semifinal.
“We’ve earned it this year. Our league was very strong,” Serratore said. “Our top five teams were over .500. It was only an eight-team league this year. Mankato obviously is strong every year and Lake Superior State, just take a look at how they played over the course of this past weekend. Over the course of the last six weeks they’ve been very strong.
“Bowling Green won 20 games. … Michigan Tech had 17 wins. Our league was strong this year. I think we benefited with three teams because of that.”
As icing on the cake, all five Division I men’s hockey programs from the state of Minnesota claimed NCAA Tournament bids in the same year for the first time ever. Minnesota, Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth will join Bemidji State in the tournament field.
“It’s a great day for the State of Hockey,” Serratore said. “It’s nice to get all five teams in there. Who knows if it’ll ever happen again. It’s not an easy task to get into the NCAA Tournament. It’s sure not easy to get all five teams into the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m happy for all the other Minnesota schools. The people in the state of Minnesota are going to enjoy some great hockey next weekend.”
Coming Monday, The Rink Live reporters Brad Schlossman, Matt Wellens, Jess Myers, Austin Monteith, Jason Feldman and Mick Hatten will be together on TheRinkLive.com podcast to discuss the 16-team NCAA Division I men's hockey tournament field.