MONTEITH COLUMN: Season now over, you can’t help but wonder what could've been with Beavers

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The Beavers celebrate Adam Brady’s goal in Game 1 of a WCHA quarterfinal series against Lake Superior State last Friday at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Thursday’s news hit players, coaches and fans across the nation like a ton of bricks.

There will be no NCAA Tournament this season. Not in men’s hockey, or in any other winter or spring sport that had yet to host its championship.

No March Madness of any variety will occur this year due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s an especially bitter pill to swallow for all connected to the Bemidji State men’s hockey program.

Entering Thursday, the Beavers were on the verge of qualifying for their first NCAA Tournament in 10 years. Nothing was set in stone yet. There was still a WCHA semifinal series against Bowling Green to be played, after all.


But at No. 12 in the Pairwise rankings, a victory in that series -- on home ice no less -- would have surely landed BSU a spot in the “Big Dance.”

To the utter disappointment of so many, we’ll never know what could have been for the Beavers in what was a special 2019-20 season.

Ending with a 22-10-5 record, one more win would have tied the program’s NCAA Division I era record for most single-season victories.

The program set D-I high-water marks in goals against (1.92 per game) and goal differential (+1.3), as well as power play (23%) and penalty kill (91.2%) efficiency. Its 3.22 goals scored per game was the sixth most in the D-I era and the most since the 2009-10 season.

In the crease, Zach Driscoll had one of the best seasons by a BSU goalie in the D-I era by totaling 21 wins, the second-most in that period. The junior finished third nationally in goals against average (1.63) and fifth in save percentage (.937).

Bemidji State got hot at just the right time, going 14-3-2 since the start of 2020 for one of the best second halves in the country. Think about this: BSU was No. 34 in the Pairwise on Dec. 30 and rose to as high No. 10 as recently as last Friday.

Nationally, the Beavers ranked second in penalty kill efficiency, fourth in goals against, eighth in wins, 10th in faceoff percentage (52.9%), and 13th in both goals scored and power play efficiency.


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Bemidji State senior Tommy Muck (3) scores in Saturday’s game against Ferris State at the Sanford Center. Jillian Gandsey / Forum News Service

Work still needed to be done in the WCHA playoffs to assure the team of an at-large NCAA berth -- or a league tournament title could’ve done the trick -- but it seemed as though this team was going to be the one to end a decade-long drought.

“Especially with this group, too. I was looking forward to it,” senior defenseman Tommy Muck said of the postseason. “Because I mean this group, we were never out of anything. … I know every single one of those guys in that room believed in each other. I wish we could have seen how the cards should have fallen.”

After some reflection, head coach Tom Serratore knows where this team ranks in his career.

“This might be the best team I’ve ever coached,” he said.

That’s saying something, considering he’s guided four Beaver teams to the NCAA Tournament, including the 2009 Frozen Four.

“I’m talking the deepest,” he continued. “Again, when you take a look at the collective group -- this is probably the best team I’ve ever coached when you factor in goaltending, forwards, our defensive depth. … I mean our statistical data, every area was very strong. That’s a testament to the guys that we have.”

Adding it all up, you can’t help but feel one of the best BSU seasons in recent memory has gone to waste.


To be clear, the decision to cancel the tournament was the right one. Nearly every league in the U.S. and beyond has canceled or postponed competition in order to slow the spread of the virus.

It also undoubtedly leaves many heartbroken, perhaps none more than the seniors who took the ice for the last time without knowing it. I can’t properly express the sadness I feel for this group of players, especially the seniors.

But let’s not remember this season for how it ended. Let’s remember the joy this team brought you as a fan and the memories that were created with this special group.

The 2020-21 season will be here before you know it, and Bemidji State will have some unfinished business to take care of.

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Bemidji State senior Tommy Muck (3) scores in Saturday’s game against Ferris State at the Sanford Center. Jillian Gandsey / Forum News Service

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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