WEEKEND RECAP: Hey, Minnesota Is Pretty Good!; Huntsville Rivalry Returns; Surprising Lake State

Minnesota is good at hockey.

Bemidji State’s Brendan Harms, right, and Minnesota’s Brady Skjei get rangled up along the Beaver bench during last Friday’s game at the Sanford Center. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

The understatement of the century, yes. But the Gophers sure showed the rest of the nation a little something this past weekend. Minnesota came to the Sanford Center and swept the Beavers 6-3 and 5-1.

That series — combined with then-No.1 Miami’s split with North Dakota and No. 2 Wisconsin’s utter embarrassment in Boston (Boston College beat the Badgers 9-2 and Boston U won 7-3) — vaulted Minnesota from No. 3 to No. 1 in the nation.

Sam Warning had five points (three goals, two assists) against BSU and Josh Justin Kloos also had five (one goal, four assists).

The Gophers have already scored 20 goals in four games.

Although the Beavers lost both games last weekend and have yet to win a game in this young season, BSU junior defenseman Sam Rendle said he was encouraged by the results.

“As the rankings shows, that was a pretty good team we were playing last weekend,” he said. “One mistake and just like that they’ll make you pay. This week we’re trying to limit those less and less. Hopefully we can get some bounces our way.”

The Beavers scored four goals against the Gophers, including two on the power play Friday night.

Currently, sophomore center Cory Ward is the team’s goal-scoring leader with two. Junior winger Danny Mattson has a goal and two assists while junior defenseman Matt Prapavessis has three assists.

Huntsville rivalry returns, but it’s different

Much of the talk this week will revolve around Bemidji State’s historic rivalry with Alabama-Huntsville.

I may use the blog later this week for a little primer on the history between the two teams, especially for those outsiders who don’t quite get it. (I, too, was one of them when I got here… I didn’t “get it.” I sure get it now.) The folks over at UAHHockey.com have a nice recap here, however.

Anyway, this rivalry, while historic, doesn’t seem to mean a whole lot to the Bemidji State players — yet. It’s understandable, considering none of them have ever played UAH with anything on the line. The Beavers and Chargers met in Huntsville at the end of the 2010-11 season and in Bemidji midway through the 2011-12 season.

Only a handful of players on the current squad were on the team the last time the teams met and just one (senior Matt Hartmann) was there when the two teams were College Hockey America (which folded in 2010).

So, understandably, although head coach Tom Serratore fondly remembered the UAH rivalry, Cory Ward said for now it’s just another series.

“It’s cool in the back of your mind to know there was a rivalry there, know it was a big deal to some of the older guys, but it’s not something we’re thinking about now,” he said.

I have a feeling that will change as soon as the Beavers and Chargers start playing in some meaningful WCHA games for the first time. Heck, depending on how these games go Friday and Saturday it could come immediately.
I’m going to guess that the Von Braun Center is going to be rollicking and the Chargers will be fired up for their first game as a member of an actual conference in three years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pair of one-goal overtime games with a lot of penalties.If that happens, I’m guessing this rivalry is going to be back on in a big way.

As planned, WCHA is unpredictable

Lake Superior State is currently 4-0. Alaska-Anchorage has defeated two ranked teams and has already won 3/4 as many games as they did a year ago. Minnesota State was swept in the first weekend of play by Providence.

Welcome to the weird new world of the WCHA, where anything can happen.

We already knew coming in to the season that nobody really knew anything when it came to the WCHA, aside from the fact that Minnesota State was (probably) the best team in the league.

Now that we’re two weeks in: Who knows?

Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press wrote on the subject today, saying essentially the same thing: If anyone expected one team to be the standout in the new-look league, they were sorely mistaken.

For example, Lake State was picked to finish seventh by the media and eighth by the coaches, is one of just five unbeaten, untied teams in college hockey. They joined the likes of Minnesota, Notre Dame and Northeastern (also Cornell, but they have yet to play a game so they don’t really count) at 4-0-0.

LSSU beat Robert Morris the opening weekend before a pair of one-goal victories at then-No. 16 Union.

The great weekend shot them up to No. 15 in the nation — right in front of Minnesota State at No. 16.

It’s these kind of performances that make reports of the WCHA’s demise greatly exaggerated.

After last week the league’s overall record was 8-11-3. Now it’s a much more respectable 17-18-5.

It’s still too early to say how the league will play itself out but as teams begin to find their rhythm and identify themselves it will be much easier to judge how good a team (and the league) really is.

This weekend is a light week, with just five WCHA teams in action — two against one another. Here’s a rundown:

Bemidji State at Alabama Huntsville
Michigan Tech vs. Northern Michigan (home and home)
Mercyhurst at Alaska

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