MONTEITH COLUMN: Look out, Beavers have a shot at NCAAs

020520.S.BP.BSUMHKY2 Ethan Somoza.jpg
Bemidji State junior Ethan Somoza (9) celebrate’s Tommy Muck’s goal in the second period against Bowling Green on Saturday at the Sanford Center. Jillian Gandsey / Forum News Service

The 2019-20 season is shaping up to potentially be a special one for the Bemidji State men’s hockey team.

The Beavers began the regular season’s final month Saturday by capping a WCHA series sweep over Bowling Green at the Sanford Center. Ross Armour tipped in the game-winning goal late in 4-2 victory, one night after a 4-1 win over the Falcons.

Since the calendar flipped to 2020, BSU has gone 8-1-1 and has risen to No. 18 in the latest poll released Monday.

More importantly, Bemidji State is up to 18th in the Pairwise Rankings, which determine the NCAA Tournament field.

Now firmly on the bubble for an at-large bid, the Beavers need to aim for a top-15 ranking come Selection Sunday to have a shot at the big dance. With six games left in the regular season and the WCHA Playoffs still to come, that’s well within the realm of possibility.


Of course, BSU could win the WCHA Tournament title and remove all doubt about its NCAA destiny.

So just how good have the Beavers been this season and how does the team’s performance compare to similar seasons?

Bemidji State’s current record (16-8-4) is the program’s best through the first 28 games of a season since joining the WCHA (2010-11) and the third-best in the NCAA Division I era (since 1999-2000).

The only two better starts in the D-I era? Those would be the 2009-10 (19-7-2) and 2004-05 (18-9-1) campaigns. Both ended with NCAA berths.

During the Frozen Four season of 2008-09, BSU was 13-14-1 at this point. The 2005-06 Beavers were 14-11-3 through 28 games and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

Of Bemidji State’s four NCAA Tournament appearances, three came as the automatic qualifier out of College Hockey America.

BSU garnered an at-large bid in 2009-10, the program’s final season in the CHA, despite falling in the league semifinals. A 23-9-4 record proved to be enough for the team to land in the NCAA field.

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic this season, though let the 2016-17 campaign serve as a cautionary tale. The Beavers won the WCHA regular-season title that year, but were knocked out in the league semifinals and missed the NCAA Tournament.


The WCHA is now much stronger, however, with Minnesota State ranking among the top three nationally all season and multiple other league members cracking the top 20. That has bolstered Bemidji State’s resume compared to three years ago, and leaves the door open for the league to possibly receive multiple bids.

By the end of February, we’ll know just how much closer BSU is to potentially ending a 10-year NCAA Tournament drought.

The Beavers are off this weekend but will return to action for a crucial series Feb. 14-15 at No. 15 Northern Michigan, another team on the NCAA bubble. They’ll then face a long trek to Alaska Anchorage before returning to the Sanford Center to conclude the regular season against No. 3 Minnesota State, where the MacNaughton Cup could be up for grabs.

MSU, BSU and NMU are in a three-way race for the top WCHA playoff seedings. The Mavericks lead the Beavers by five points and the Wildcats by 12, though Northern Michigan has eight games to play, compared to six each for the former two teams.

While the road ahead remains challenging, Bemidji State seems to be hitting its stride at just the right time. If the Beavers keep it up, an NCAA Tournament berth may await them at the end of that road.

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
What To Read Next
Get Local