It’s almost Christmas. Just to get this out of the way, here’s my favorite Christmas song ever (no joke).
OK, now that you know that, let’s get to the task at hand: As the New Year approaches, the Bemidji State men’s and women’s teams are trending in (slightly) different directions.
The men are on a five-game unbeaten streak, while the women are suffering a three-game losing skid.
I realize that I already ran a column on the men’s team last week, but it’s Christmas so I thought I would re-hash it a little more.
The Beaver men have rebounded nicely from their seven-game November losing streak and go into the break in seventh place. That might not look like much, and having only nine points doesn’t look super-impressive, but they’re just three points out of fourth place and home-ice advantage. Northern Michigan and Ferris State are tied for fourth at the moment.
The men have been scoring at a better clip lately than they did at the beginning of the season, but they’re without sophomore Brendan Harms, who was injured against Alaska Anchorage on Dec. 6.
The Beavers will hope he’s back later in January, but they have some solid offense contributors to step up in his stead. Sophomores Nate Arentz (7 goals, 7 assists) and Charlie O’Connor (6 goals, one assist) have stepped up in their second BSU seasons while the Fitzgerald triplets are finally starting to show why they were such heralded recruits.
BSU returns Jan. 9-10 against Alabama Huntsville and then goes to Lake Superior State the best weekend. If the Beavers can clean up against the bottom half of the league they should shoot up the schedule pretty quickly. Their late-season slate favors them, so home ice advantage for the playoffs is a possibility.
The women, meanwhile, are in a slight rut after starting off the season so well. They’re 11-8-1 overall and 7-81 in the conference. Recently they were swept by Ohio State — the fourth loss to the Buckeyes this season.
BSU was previously in fourth place in the conference but have been leapfrogged by the Buckeyes and now sit one point out of fourth (and two out of third).
The Beavers, though, have proved they can beat the conference’s elite teams and after traveling to Lindenwood Jan. 2-3 they will head to Minnesota Duluth. A good showing against the Bulldogs will but the Beavers right back into playoff contention with two months left in the season.
Whatever happens down the stretch — and the Beavers certainly have the talent to reclaim home ice — BSU certainly isn’t a team anyone is going to want to see in the league playoffs. I’m not sure they’re going to have enough to make the NCAA tournament without an automatic bid bit don’t count them out in winning the WCHA tournament, either.
We’ll know a whole lot more after this month. The Beavers are on the road until the beginning of February. If they can stay steady they should be in great position going into the playoffs.
Anderson at Team USA camp
I’ll have a feature on this in the Dec. 26 paper, but BSU forward Stephanie Anderson is getting the opportunity to participate in the USA Women’s Hockey Winter Camp this weekend in Blaine.
Anderson played on the U-18 team previously so she has experienced playing for her country (she won the silver at the U-18 tournament in 2009).
She’s the fourth Beaver player to get a chance to try out for the national team, and the first since 2011.
Anyway, look for the story on Thursday. I’ll be the first to give you an update if she makes the team.