Can The Skid End This Weekend?

Bemidji State hosts Minnesota-Duluth Friday and Saturday in what is surely the least-anticipated WCHA series since… well, since BSU took on Alaska-Anchorage over Thanksgiving break.

Bemidji State vs. Wisconson
Bemidji State defensemen Jake Areshenko, right, and Brady Wacker, center, put pressure on Wisconsin’s Tyler Barnes during Friday night’s 2-2 tie at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. Hat-tip to UW’s student paper, the Badger Herald, for sending us some shots. This one from staff photographer Jen Small.

Look, both teams are struggling right now: The Beavers, as has been repeated countless times, are winless in 2013 and 0-9-3 since the Denver series back in December.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are 1-5-0  in their last six following sweeps at the hands of Denver and Minnesota State-Mankato.

I would say “Someone has to win!” but then I remembered we’re talking about hockey here so the exact opposite is true – we could very well see a pair of 1-1 ties this weekend. Both teams are in the bottom half nationally in both scoring offense (BSU 56th overall, 2.04 goals a game; UMD t-39th, 2.50 GPG) AND scoring defense (BSU 46th, 3.07 GPG; UMD t-42nd, 3.00 GPG).

The Bulldogs, at least, have some goal-scorers. Three players (Mike Seidel, Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley) have double-digit goal tallies. The Beavers have just one (Aaron McLeod).

I have a few more numbers in my preview story here, I’ll direct you to that rather than re-type them all again.

There wasn’t much new to report from Tuesday’s weekly press conference, except this tidbit: BSU head coach Tom Serratore said that sophomore Andrew Walsh will get the nod in net in Friday’s game.

That’s not odd in of itself. In recent games both Walsh and senior Mathieu Dugas have been splitting time in net – sometimes in the same game. Against St. Cloud two weeks ago Walsh got the start in game two and gave up two quick goals. Dugas came in to relieve him and ended up starting Friday’s series opener against Wisconsin. He came up huge for the Beavers, making 38 saves to help preserve the tie.

But on Saturday, Dugas got the start and gave up three straight goals before Walsh returned the favor and came in midway through the second period.

Neither goalie has been consistently great this season, and there’s no clear No. 1, so the fact that goaltenders are rotating like this isn’t a shock.

What’s more surprising is that Serratore usually pretty tight-lipped when it comes to what his lineups and starting goaltenders are going to look like for the upcoming weekend. That’s somewhat understandable, I think: We usually have our media day Tuesday afternoon and a lot can happen between then and Friday – somebody could get hurt during practice, lines could get shuffled, the Sanford Center could be sucked in to Lake Bemidji, etc.

Before the Wisconsin series last week I asked him about the goaltending situation and he didn’t say much, just that they’d make a decision on Thursday night. This week, he said immediately – and with no ambiguity – that Walsh would be getting the start.

I’m not sure if there’s an impetus behind naming a netminder early in the week, but it seems like the coaching staff is trying to mix things up to try and find something to motivate the team and grab a win.

“Ideally you’d like to have your goaltending situation solidified in the second half of the year,” Serratore said. “We always have, but when you’re struggling like this, you’re trying to find offense and win games, sometimes things aren’t as traditional as they have been in the past.”

Serratore also said he’s been switching some other things up in the past few weeks, including flipping their normal Wednesday and Thursday practices and shuffling lines like crazy.

Maybe making a goaltender decision early in the week rather than Thursday night will help the Beavers end their long drought – if it doesn’t work, they don’t have a lot to lose. They need the morale boost.