Beavs sign five recruits for 2016-17, plus a directory of future commits

The Bemidji State men’s hockey team will once again have a large freshman class next season.

After signing two recruits (Tommy Muck and Ethan Somoza) the early signing period in November, the Beavers announced Wednesday that five more players have inked National Letters of Intent. That brings BSU’s incoming class to seven — which is the same amount as last year’s class.

Anyway, I’m not sure how many of these guys I’ve talked about on the blog but I’ve Tweeted about all five in some way, shape or form. All five committed to BSU earlier this year.

There’s one goalie (Jack Bugart), a defenseman (Zach Whitecloud) and three forwards (Brendan Harris, Dylan McCrory and Hampus Sjohdal).

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Note Dame to B1G. More realignment coming?

You’ve undoubtedly heard by now: Notre Dame is leaving Hockey East for the Big Ten (in hockey only, in 2017-18).

As most things do in the college hockey community, this announcement made the Internet go crazy for about 12 hours last night.

It’s a move that makes perfect sense, competitively, geographically and financially, for two of the three parties (although Hockey East seems a bit bummed out by the whole thing judging from their commissioner’s non-statement statement today).

This move, in of itself, doesn’t appear to affect either Bemidji State or the WCHA — yet.

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Season ends with Game 3 loss at Bowling Green

Brendan Harms takes a shot on Bowling Green goalie Chris Nell on Sunday. (Todd Pavlack | BGSUHockey.com)

Brendan Harms takes a shot on Bowling Green goalie Chris Nell on Sunday. (Todd Pavlack | BGSUHockey.com)

Didn’t get a chance to blog about this earlier, but: The Beavers’ season ended on Sunday night with a 3-1 loss at Bowling Green. (FWIW, I still think the Beavers got a little hosed on those two video reviews that both went against them in that game, but in all it was a pretty fun series to watch and either team could have won.)

I’m going to have a more complete recap/postmortem of BSU’s year later after I talk to head coach Tom Serratore this afternoon, but I think one thing is significant: The Beavers finished 17-16-6 overall — a mediocre record, to be sure, but it’s the first time since joining the WCHA that they ended the season above .500. (The last time the Beavers finished had a winning record was 2009-10, the last year of the CHA and the season that they earned the at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament).

Junior forward Brendan Harms and sophomore forward Gerry Fitzgerald finished with a team-high 25 points each. Gerry was the team’s leading goalscorer with 14, which was good enough for top 10 in the conference. Although his production dropped a little after he started the season with seven goals in his first six games, I’d expect him to be one of the top offensive players returning in the conference for next season. Harms too.

The good news for the Beavers is that they lose just four seniors this year, compared to seven last year. Obviously all four seniors — defenseman Graeme McCormack and forwards Cory Ward, Markus Gerbrandt and John Parker — were a huge part of the team these last four years. But the Beavers have a lot more experience coming back than they did coming into this season — specifically on defense, where they have the the task of replacing just one outstanding D-man rather than three.

So far, they’ve signed just two recruits officially — defenseman Tommy Muck of Inver Grove Heights and forward Ethan Somoza of Simi Valley, Calif. — but I’d expect one or two more players to be added (for example, Aaron Miller of Superior, Wis., is going to turn 21 this season and age out of juniors, so he should be joining the team this fall).

That’s all for now. I’ll have more in the paper this week. And be sure to read the same story I wrote on the women’s hockey season from Sunday’s paper.

Weekend recap: Beavers take second in North Star Cup

A little late with this, but by now you probably know that the Beavers beat Minnesota on Saturday before falling to St. Cloud State in Sunday’s North Star College Cup final.

I’ll spare you the recap since it’s old news by now, but it was a fun weekend of hockey at the X — every game was good save the title game and the fans who did show up were loud and had a good time.

I’ll have a column about my thoughts on the North Star Cup in Wednesday’s Pioneer, I’ll post it here when it’s online. Overall, I think the tournament could turn into a destination thing like Boston’s Beanpot and the Great Lakes Invitational in Michigan. It will never be at the caliber of the Final Five, but as a showcase for hockey in the state it has an opportunity to turn into a “family reunion” of sorts for the 5 Division I programs in the state.

Anyway, look for that later.

Special teams success

A weird stat that I wasn’t really able to fit into my game story, but, somehow BSU managed to hold St. Cloud State off the scoreboard entirely on the power play this weekend.

OK, small sample size — the Beavers had two penalties, one of which was a 5-minute major with less than two minutes left in a blowout — but it’s still an accomplishment, considering the Huskies had scored on three of five power plays in their win over Mankato on Saturday. St. Cloud is second in the country on the man-advantage with 33 goals in 104 tries (31.7 percent).

There were actually only three penalties in the entire game, and the Beavers happened to score on their only power play. Which basically means BSU went 3-for-3 on combined special teams.

Which, yeah, no big deal — it obviously didn’t matter since St. Cloud absolutely dominated even-strength play.

I just think it’s interesting just how well the Beavers’ special teams have been as a whole this year. They’ve given up just 10 goals while on the penalty kill — which is third in the country. Not bad for a .500 team.

Beaver women fall to Minnesota

Although the BSU women played very well against Minnesota in both games this weekend, they still came up empty. The Beavers lost a pair of 2-1 games — in both  instances, the Gophers scored a late goal to win.

That means the Beavers are a combined 0-8 against Wisconsin and Minnesota, the top two teams in the WCHA. They’re 12-1-1 against everyone else in the conference.

Still, they’re in pretty good shape right now: With just six games to go in the regular season, the Beavers are in fourth place (aka, a home-ice advantage slot) and are 10 points ahead of fifth-place St. Cloud State. A sweep essentially clinches fourth for BSU, which would be its first-ever WCHA home playoff series.

BSU is just two points back of North Dakota and could take third.

No matter where the Beavers end up — and they have a way more favorable end-of-season schedule than UND, which still has to play Minnesota — they’ll still be playing either St. Cloud or Minnesota Duluth. My guess is they’d prefer to play St. Cloud, but if the Huskies get three or more points this weekend that may be less favorable for BSU.

My poll

In case you were curious, here’s who I voted for this week. I had St. Cloud as my top team before the weekend, and after watching them beat MSU and BSU this weekend that hasn’t changed:

1. St. Cloud
2. Quinnipiac
3. North Dakota
4. Boston College
5. Michigan
6. Harvard
7. Lowell
8. Boston U
9. Denver
10. Providence
11. Michigan Tech
12. Minnesota State
13. Omaha
14. Robert Morris
15. Bowling Green
16. Notre Dame
17. Yale
18. Penn State
19. RPI
20. Cornell

PREGAME WARMUP: ‘Dogs are in the house

Ferris State is in the house this weekend, as the Beavers and Bulldogs begin a two-game WCHA series.

Here’s your abbreviated primer on the Bulldogs: They’re 10-9-5 overall and 8-7-3 in the league. They have yet to sweep anyone and have yet to be swept this season; likewise, their longest winning or losing streak is two games.

That’s some remarkable consistency for college hockey, but it’s not going to get you any national recognition. The Bulldogs have been, to sum it up in a word, steady.

Freshman Darren Smith is in the nets tonight for Ferris. He’s 7-4-4 with a 2.20 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Not bad, for a rookie. CJ Motte started literally every game for the Bulldogs last season, and goaltending was the big question mark for the Bulldogs coming into the season. Looks like they’ve got a good one.

Here’s my game story from today’s Pioneer highlighting the rivalry between the two teams. Also, here’s video of both head coach Tom Serratore and sophomore forward (and scoring leader) Gerry Fitzgerald.

Lines are below. Of note, Myles Fitzgerald is again out of the lineup. He played in all four games on the Alaska trip but missed both Arizona State games last week. Jordan Heller slides into his place on the triplet line. Jay Dickman will move to the fourth line with Marinaccio and Arentz.

Also, no suspension or anything for junior D Ruslan Pedan, who was called for a five-minute major and game misconduct last week at the end of last Saturday’s game against Arizona State. I didn’t think the hit was that bad but it’s hard to tell what the league is going to do sometimes…

Bemidji State Lines
Charlie O’Connor – Cory Ward – Brendan Harms
Markus Gerbrandt – Kyle Bauman – John Parker
Leo Fitzgerald – Gerry Fitzgerald – Jordan Heller
Phillip Marinaccio – Nate Arentz – Jay Dickman

Justin Baudry – Graeme McCormack
Dillon Eichstadt – Brett Beauvais
Ruslan Pedan – Dan Billett

Michael Bitzer
Reid Mimmack
Jesse Wilkins

Opponent Lines
Kyle Schempp – Jared VanWormer – Gerald Mayhew
Jacob Hetz – Trevor Recktenwald – Andrew Mayer
Corey Mackin – Andrew Dorantes – Tyler Andrew
Mitch Maloney – Matt Robertson – Chad McDonald

Sean O’Rourke – Simon Denis
Brandon Anselmini – Ryan Lowney
Zach Dorer – Tyler Dorantes

Darren Smith
Charles William

PREGAME WARMUP: BSU doubleheader vs. Wisconsin, Arizona State

Big series for both Bemidji State hockey teams this weekend at the Sanford Center.

The women host No. 2 Wisconsin while the men play their first-ever series against Arizona State.

See after the jump, but I have some leftover bits from earlier this week, about the Beaver women’s team’s fourth line and Arizona State’s potential conference destination (not breaking any news here, but some interesting comments from ASU coach Greg Powers).

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WCHA sweater power rankings

Hey gang.

Sorry for no blog updates, but it’s been busy around here with a the Pioneer’s sports department in transition (Kris Lodes left in October and Austin Monteith started at the end of November).

Anyway, needless to say it’s been busy enough getting a daily paper out so the blog updates haven’t been coming.

That said, I’ll try and do that more after the new year (yes, I understand I’ve said that before).

I’ll do a more conventional update tomorrow, but until then, something interesting: The WCHA recently announced in a press release two weeks ago that the league would be switching from white sweaters at home to dark sweaters for the second half of the year.

I’m not actually sure if the Beavers will be wearing green or white this weekend, since the rule only applies for league games and Arizona State is in town (who, by the way, has tremendous black jerseys).

Anyway, I asked BSU forward John Parker before the team left for Alaska his thoughts on the switch. He wasn’t against it, but also said he liked the Beavers’ white sweaters a little better:

The WCHA and the NCHC are both going to do this, which gives fans a chance to see both of their home team’s jerseys in one season.

All of this jersey talk got me thinking: Which WCHA teams have the best sweaters?

I almost feel like I have to do two different versions of this (dark sweaters and light sweaters). Because, for example, Michigan Tech’s cream colored throwbacks are hands-down the best lights in the league, but their blacks are just “meh”.

Likewise, I really like Huntsville’s blue jerseys (but not the greys).

This is a 100% unscientific and opinionated, but here’s my list.

LIGHT SWEATERS
1. Michigan Tech (they also have yellow ones which I don’t like as much)
2. Bemidji State (bonus points for using the throwback 80s ones. The cream ones are just meh. Decent idea, boring execution.)
3. Northern Michigan (can’t explain why but I really like the look)
4. Ferris State (the yellows here are also sharp)
5. Bowling Green (I like cream, but the whites are decent too)
6. Alaska Anchorage (I think they have yellow ones too, that I can’t find)
7. Alaska (yellow ones look great too)
8. Lake Superior State (also kinda meh)
9. Alabama-Huntsville (nothing special)
10.  Minnesota State (Mavericks use too much black and not enough purple)

DARK SWEATERS
1. Bowling Green (the orange ones really pop, and the browns are OK)
2. Lake Superior State (I really like this look, much better than Alaska. Maybe the gold trim is better used.)
3. Alabama Huntsville (they also have black and grey but the blues look best with black trim. Sharp)
4. Bemidji State (I like the simplicity of these, but sometimes they seem a little dull with all-green… the whites are good because of the contrast in pants and helmets)
5. Alaska Anchorage (normally I hate teams using black that don’t have black in their color scheme, but I like this one. Not sure why. They used to have green, which I also liked.)
6. Alaska (these are OK. Like BSU, just too much of one color)
7. Northern Michigan (basically the same concept as the light ones, but in reverse. No reason for me not liking it other than I like the white ones better.)
8. Michigan Tech (these aren’t bad, per say, but it’s a bland Bruins knockoff. Too busy. I liked these babies better. Especially the UP shoulder patch.)
9. Ferris State (did somebody say McDonald’s?)
10. Minnesota State (These are awful. Boring design, too much black, almost no purple or gold to be found. Not sure why the men’s hockey team does this because every other Mankato team uses some kind of purple in their uniforms. At least MSU’s women’s team gets it right.)

PREGAME WARMUP: Halloween edition

It took me far too long to find some appropriate Halloween music for this week’s blog post, so instead you should just listen to the “Zombie” by the Cranberries on repeat, just because.

The Beaver men’s team is in Marquette, Mich., tonight to take on Northern Michigan. BSU is looking for its first WCHA win of the season after being swept by Minnesota State.

The women are back home after being swept by Wisconsin on the road last weekend. They host St. Cloud State, which picked up its first win last week against North Dakota. The Beavers will miss senior forward Stephanie Anderson for one game this weekend and all of the next series at Ohio State, as she will be competing for Team USA in the Four Nations Cup in Sweden.

BSU remains No. 6 in the country in the USCHO.com poll.

The main feature in the story today is on Kyle Bauman, a Florida native who nearly quit playing hockey before his freshman season. But a last-minute call from head coach Tom Serratore in the summer brought him on board. Now, the sophomore is one of BSU’s most reliable players.

The Beavers are on their first real road trip of the season after playing four of their first five games at home. The Wildcats, meanwhile, have their first two-game home series of the year after a road series at Wisconsin and a pair of home and homes against UP rivals Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State.

Shane Frederick and I made our WCHA picks this weekend on USCHO (FWIW, I picked BSU and NMU to split) and also wrote a column on the league earlier this week.

Also: If you want to watch me be awkward on camera, we’ve started a new video series called “Beaver Banter” where I talk to various BSU athletes about things that aren’t necessarily sports. Most recently, Beavers’ goaltender Jesse Wilkins showed us what was on his mask. I’m a big fan for the green Paul Bunyan on the side.

Finally, because I forgot to do it on Monday, here’s my ballot for the USCHO men’s poll. I dropped the Beavers out after they were swept by MSU. Northern Michigan at 2-2-2 appeared on my ballot, however.

1. Boston College (4-1-0)
2. North Dakota (4-0-2)
3. Harvard (0-0-0)
4. Denver (3-1-0)
5. Bowling Green (3-1-1)
6. Omaha (6-0-0)
7. Providence (4-0-1)
8. Boston U (2-1-0)
9. Quinnipiac (6-0-0)
10. Merrimack (2-0-2)
11. Duluth (2-1-2)
12. Michigan Tech (2-2-0)
13. Lowell (3-0-2)
14. Yale (0-0-0)
15. St. Cloud (4-2-0)
16. St. Lawrence (4-2-0)
17. Miami (3-2-1)
18. Clarkson (5-1-0)
19. Northern Michigan (2-2-2)
20. Michigan (3-0-1)

Monday recap: Poll position

Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer

Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer

I had intended on posting on the blog Sunday, but I got back from Grand Forks and got tired.

Luckily, though, my neglect to post means I can write this Monday blog post on the release of the national polls.

Both the Beaver women and the Beaver men are getting some national love, although the women more than the men.

Let’s start with the Beaver women. Jim Scanlan’s squad remained unbeaten this weekend with their 0-0 tie of North Dakota on Friday in Bemidji followed by their comeback overtime victory over UND on Saturday in Grand Forks.

The national pollsters took notice. The Beavers jumped from No. 8 to No. 6, leapfrogging North Dakota in the process. It’s the highest-ranking in program history for any BSU women’s team.

Check the full poll here. BSU will get a chance to further prove their credentials this weekend when they head to Madison to take on No. 3 Wisconsin. The Badgers are 6-0-0 and have outscored opponents 35-2, so it should be a fun to see BSU’s defense — which has given up just five even strength goals this season.

The men, meanwhile, aren’t unbeaten anymore — they lost to North Dakota 5-2 on Saturday in Grand Forks after rallying to tie 4-4 on Friday in Bemidji.

And although the Beavers have received some votes, they’re currently on the outside looking in for USCHO’s most recent men’s poll. They’re unofficially No. 21, with 59 points.

Ahead of them? Minnesota. Yes, Minnesota, the team that is 0-3 and has scored a total of one (1) goal in those three games.

Yes, Minnesota, a team that was swept by Minnesota Duluth — the same team Bemidji State already beat.

The Beavers, in fact, scored three times as many goals in one game against the Bulldogs as the Gophers did in two.

Look, I know it’s early and polls don’t ACTUALLY mean anything, but polls are valuable in letting people know what the college hockey world thinks about this team or that team. The fact that people are still voting for Minnesota despite an 0-3-0 start (as opposed to the 1-1-1 Beavers) just tells you how much having a logo on the front of the sweater means as opposed to what the team actually does.

How many voters that picked Minnesota actually looked at them and said, “Hey, wait a minute! Bemidji beat Duluth and the Gophers lost! Twice!” I’m guessing not many. And they’re probably the same people who continued to vote for Wisconsin at the start of the season (and last week). Thankfully the 0-2-2 Badgers aren’t on the poll anymore.

Anyway, I think the Beavers are worthy of being a top-20 team for now. They’re certainly as deserving as Minnesota (or Minnesota State, which is 0-4-0 and just behind BSU after dropping out of the poll).

I voted the Beavers as No. 13. Maybe this is high. I don’t care. (FWIW, the Beavers are No. 17 in the pairwise, which doesn’t mean much until teams have played more games. But still….)

Here’s my ballot. I don’t think it’s unreasonable. And you’ll notice I dropped out both the Gophers and the Mavericks. If you’re 0-3-0 (or 0-4-0) after two weeks, you’re not a top-20 team (for now… this could change, obviously). Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think.

1. Boston College
2. North Dakota
3. Harvard
4. Denver
5. Bowling Green
6. Duluth
7. Omaha
8. Providence
9. Boston U
10. Michigan Tech
11. Lowell
12. Yale
13. Bemidji State
14. St. Cloud
15. Quinnipiac
16. St. Lawrence
17. Michigan
18. Colgate
19. Clarkson
20. Union

Finally, unrelated to BSU but since the Beavers were in NoDak Nation on Saturday (This is the actual name of UND’s student section. They had a giant banner with that name on it. Is the UND administration doubling down on that one and just putting all its eggs in that “NoDak” basket?), I thought it would be worth mentioning that North Dakota’s nickname vote starts today. Which means that the next time BSU and UND play, both teams will have a nickname (well, maybe… this is North Dakota we’re talking about….)

The options are: NoDaks, sUNDogs, Fighting Hawks, Roughriders and North Stars.

Will they actually pick one or will this go back to court for five more years? STAY TUNED!

PREGAME WARMUP: UND/BSU, home and home doubleheader edition

Not a lot of time to blog, so I’ll be brief:

It’s a big weekend for both Beaver hockey teams (as you know). And with both teams’ good starts (the women 5-1-0 and the men with the smaller-sample-size 1-0), they’re hosting the (Sundogs/Hawks/NoDaks/Roughriders/North Stars) at the opportune time with some opportunity to pick up some momentum.

The women will once again rely on All-American goaltender Brittni Mowat to keep them in it against a UND team that has a pair of solid goaltenders. Mowat has a 0.60 GAA and has allowed just one even strength goal.

I also chatted with Mowat about her mask in a new video series we’re doing. (It was fun, but there’s a reason why I am a print journalist so please go easy on me.)

As for the Beaver men, they have a knack for early-season wins against top ranked teams like North Dakota. (Remember last season in Grand Forks? Yeah, as if BSU fans could forget….)

I also talked with John Parker, also on video.

Finally, over on USCHO.com Shane Frederick and I wrote about the Beavers’ big win over UMD as well as Minnesota State’s tough losses, and did our weekly predictions.

Anyway, the women’s game starts at 2:07 today in Bemidji, so I’ve got to get ready for that. Stay tuned for more.