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Bemidji State beat writer for the Bemidji Pioneer. Appreciator of books, beer, baseball and rock'n'roll.

STATE CHAMPS: Beavers take North Star College Cup title

As I’m sure you already know if you have any interest in Beavers sports: The men’s hockey team won the North Star College Cup this weekend, beating No. 7 Minnesota Duluth 4-0 and No. 1 Minnesota State 3-1 en route to winning the trophy.

It’s a big deal for the Beavers, who were basically an afterthought for most fans and media going into a tournament field that featured three ranked teams.

I’ll have a column on the win in tomorrow’s paper. The video is embedded above, so you can relive the MSU victory again and again. Also, here’s the story that appeared in Sunday’s paper.

Here’s how the Beavers’ win was covered in the Twin Cities and national media:

Star Tribune:  Bemidji State upsets No. 1 Minnesota State Mankato

Pioneer Press: Bemidji State tops MSU-Mankato for North Star College Cup title

Mankato Free Press: Mavericks, Beavers put WCHA in spotlight

USCHO: Bitzer, Bemidji State stymie No. 1 Minnesota State to win North Star College Cup

College Hockey News: Beavers’ Two Upsets Earns North Star Cup

SB Nation College Hockey: Bemidji State Upsets #1 Minnesota State to Win North Star College Cup

My USCHO ballot

Despite the Mavericks’ loss to the Beavers, I kept them as the No. 1 team in my poll this week. Most voters didn’t agree, as North Dakota took over the top spot and the Mavs dropped to third.

Whatever. MSU is still No. 1 in the pairwise and looked a lot better against BSU than Minnesota-Duluth. UMD inexplicably stayed at No. 7 despite the split… seems inconsistent if you ask me. I had UMD at No. 8 (they were 9 on my ballot last week, but a bunch of teams ahead of them on my ballot also lost so I moved them up).

I guess my question is: if you’re going to penalize the Mavs for losing to the Beavers, why not penalize the Bulldogs too? MSU looked better against both BSU and Minnesota than the Bulldogs did, but still dropped to third. Ugh.

Also, BSU received three votes for their efforts. Those three votes were not mine — I tend to make it a policy, this late in the season, not to vote for teams with losing records in the polls. But if BSU can string a few victories together here, they have a legit case for being ranked. We’ll see — they take on top-10 BGSU and Tech the next two weekends.

Here’s mine.

1. Minnesota State
2. North Dakota
3. Boston U
4. Harvard
5. Omaha
6. Bowling Green
7. Denver
8. Minnesota Duluth
9. Michigan Tech
10. Providence
11. Miami
12. Lowell
13. Michigan
14. Boston College
15. Vermont
16. Colgate
17. Robert Morris
18. Quinnipiac
19. Merrimack
20. Canisius

Beavers take stab at Lumberjacks/Spuds rivalry

Bemidji hosts Moorhead in boys hockey tonight.

Now, this isn’t necessarily Beavers-related, per say, but it’s significant because this season, for the first time in a long time, the Beavers have both a former Bemidji Lumberjacks and a former Moorhead Spud playing on the same team.

Freshman forward Jordan Heller and freshman goaltender Michael Bitzer are friends and teammates now, but back in high school they were fierce rivals.

“Me and him always go at it, trash talk each other a bit,” Heller said. “We played against each other for three years in high school. It was always a battle.”

Bemidji/Moorhead might not get the play around the state that, say, Warroad/Roseau gets — they aren’t just 20 miles away like those two schools — but considering the Lumberjacks and the Spuds are the two biggest schools in northwest Minnesota it makes sense that there’s some hatred there. It seems like, in every sport, Bemidji and Moorhead are always fighting for supremacy in Section 8.

The Lumberjacks finally beat the Spuds this year — a 4-2 comeback victory in Moorhead that was the start of their current 13-game win streak.

“We haven’t got past Moorhead in the past couple years so when we finally got past them this year I gave it to him a little bit.”

Heller — just the third Bemidji High School graduate to suit up for the Beavers in their Division 1 era — played on the BHS varsity team from 2009-12; Bitzer was at Moorhead from 2008-12.

Bitzer played in three state tournaments and won Minnesota’s Frank Brimsek Award in 2012 as the state’s top goaltender.

The Lumberjacks haven’t made the state tournament since 1986 — in part due to the Spuds’ dominance.

Bitzer said the two plan on going to the game tonight — something he’d planned since the last Bemidji/Moorhead game.

“Me and Heller have been heckling each other a little bit,” Bitzer said. “The Jacks beat them earlier in the year, so ever since then I’ve been waiting for this game on  the schedule for sure.”

Heller said they’d be bringing their teammates to the game too — makes sense, since it should be an outstanding one. The Lumberjacks are 13-1-1 and are No. 11 in Class AA while the Spuds are No. 17 and 9-5-2.

The game is set to begin at 7:30 at the Bemidji Community Arena. That’s less than three hours so you should have plenty of time to get a seat.

My USCHO ballot this week

Just real quick for you, here’s my USCHO ballot. Minnesota Stat is No. 1 for the first time ever and they were who I picked for the top slot, too. Of the teams in last week’s top ten the Mavs were the only ones to go unbeaten.

They take on Ferris State this week so we’ll see if this whole “curse of No. 1″ befalls them too.

1. Minnesota State
2. Boston U
3. North Dakota
4. Minnesota Duluth
5. Bowling Green
6. Harvard
7. Vermont
8. Omaha
9. Denver
10. Providence
11. Miami
12. Michigan Tech
13. Minnesota
14. Lowell
15. Merrimack
16. Colgate
17. Boston College
18. Quinnipiac
19. Robert Morris
20. Michigan

It’s Huntsville week! And other post-vacation observations

I’ve returned from my New Years’ vacation to Texas, where the 45 degree weather meant Houstonians were bundled up in parkas (not joking) while I spent much of the week either sick (got an ear infection on Dec. 31!) or walking around in shorts and flip flops while Texans gave me weird looks.

Incidentally, that’s probably the same thing that happens anytime a Northerner goes to Huntsville from December to March.

The Beavers don’t get to bask in the glow of Southern warmth this weekend, however: Instead, the Chargers are coming up here riding a three-game unbeaten streak.

That’s right. UAH, fresh of its first-ever WCHA sweep, also tied No. 13 Nebraska Omaha before Christmas.

The sweep, according to UAHHockey.com, is the Chargers’ first legit two-game sweep of a D-I team since January 2010 against Niagara.

And don’t look now, but the Chargers are just one point behind the Beavers in the WCHA standings.

So this is a big series for both teams. Certainly the most important of this rivalry since the CHA days.

You can believe I’ll have much more on this series in the coming week. Just putting a seed in your mind, in case you needed reminding: It’s Huntsville week.

My USCHO ballot

I’ve been neglecting to do this the past few weeks, but because people are interested, here’s my USCHO ballot.

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve voted. I kept Boston U at No. 1 because I saw no real reason to drop them. Mankato is holidng steady at No. 2, Harvard No. 3 and North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth round out the top 5.

MSU was my top team after the break but I believe the tie to Northern Michigan caused me to drop them a slot.

At least for my, the 20 teams in the ballot have been pretty consistent for the past few weeks. Mostly I’ve just been rearranging the order. Maybe that will change this week depending on what teams like Yale, Dartmouth and Michigan do. But for now, this is my story and I’m sticking to it.

1. Boston U
2. Minnesota State
3. Harvard
4. North Dakota
5. Minnesota Duluth
6. Miami
7. Michigan Tech
8. Lowell
9. Vermont
10. Bowling Green
11. Minnesota
12. Denver
13. Omaha
14. Merrimack
15. Robert Morris
16. Quinnipiac
17. Providence
18. Boston College
19. Penn State
20. Colgate

CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS: Where the Beaver men, women team are at midseason

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.

 

BEAVERS GAMEDAY: Game 17, BSU vs. Northern Michigan

Bemidji State is back home for the final two games of the season before the holiday break. They’re welcoming the Northern Michigan Wildcats, who are normally stout on defense behind goaltender Mathias Dahlström but last weekend gave up 10 goals against Bowling Green.

Here’s my preview of tonight’s game, as seen in today’s Pioneer. I focused on the Beavers’ special teams, which came on strong last weekend.

Also, if you’re interested, here are my WCHA picks on USCHO.com. I picked a BSU/NMU split but as always I’ll probably be wrong.

I also wrote another feature on Michigan Tech and Minnesota Duluth, who are playing a huge series in Houghton this weekend. So if you’re interested, that’s here.

Thirdly: the No. 9 BSU women’s team is on the road in St. Cloud. It’s their first time away from Bemidji in more than a month and their first time on Olympic ice this season, but the Beavers think the Olympic ice will benefit them due to their improved team speed this year.

Finally, I haven’t seen lines yet but I will share those with you when I get to the Sanford Center. I do know one thing: Forward Brendan Harms will be out at least four weeks with an upper body injury. He’s tied for the team’s scoring lead with Nate Arentz. It’s a tough blow for the Beavers, who are losing a good playmaker. But luckily for them he’ll have the holiday break to recover a bit and not miss too many games.

BSU coach Tom Serratore said freshman Kyle Bauman will take his place in the lineup. Bauman has played well so far so it may be a good opportunity to showcase more of his talents on BSU’s top line.

Check back later for lines. Puck drops at 7:37 p.m.

EDIT: So, this is odd. Dahlström isn’t playing.  He’s not even listed on the line chart for the ‘Cats. Not sure what to make of this, but it certainly changes things.

For Bemidji State, Michael Bitzer will make his normal Friday start after Andrew Walsh started both games in Anchorage.

Bauman is indeed on the top line, with Cory Ward and Markus Gerbrandt.

BEMIDJI STATE
FORWARDS

Markus Gerbrandt – Cory Ward – Kyle Bauman
Phillip Marinaccio – Nate Arentz – John Parker
Leo Fitzgerald – Gerry Fitzgerald – Myles Fitzgerald
Charlie O’Connor – Mitch Cain – Phil Brewer
DEFENSE
Sam Rendle – Sam Windle
Brett Beauvais – Matt Prapavessis
Ruslan Pedan – Graeme McCormack
GOALIES
Michael Bitzer
Andrew Walsh
Reid Mimmack

NORTHERN MICHIGAN
FORWARDS
Reed Seckel – Shane Sooth – Dominik Shine
Robbie Payne – Darren Nowick – Gerard Hanson
Cohen Adair – Casey Purpur – Joseph Manno
John Siemer – Zach Diamantoni – Sami Salminen
DEFENSE
Jake Baker – Ryan Kesti
Mitch Jones – Brock Maschmeyer
Jordan Klimek – Ryan Trenz
GOALIES
Michael Doan
Derek Dun

 

Bad at blogging: Some updates you should have seen this past month

Hello, my name is Jack Hittinger and I am terrible at blogging.

I have failed to maintain this blog like I said I would. I will shift some of the blame to my new job as sports editor.

You read that correctly: The schmuck from Michigan who covers the Beaver athletics programs is now also in charge of the entire sports section.

Yes, it’s been a bit busy around here since Pat Miller retired. He worked at the paper for a total of 28 years and two separate times, so his retirement is well-deserved.

Anyway, it was time for him to move on, but the person we are hiring to replace me doesn’t start until Dec. 15. So it’s basically been a month of me working by myself — with the huuuuuuge help of our news editor Matt Cory, our page designer Joe Froemming, our two part timers and even our publisher, Dennis Doeden. I wouldn’t have been able to get through the last few weeks without their help, so it’s greatly, greatly, greatly appreciated.

I should clarify: Even though I am taking on the title of sports editor, my job duties will still remain the same — at least as far as readers are concerned. I’m going to continue to cover the Bemidji State athletics programs, especially men’s and women’s hockey and football.

In addition to all that, though, I’m also in charge of our coverage for the rest of the things we have going on in town: high school sports, the Axemen, curling, the outdoors, etc. It’s a bit of a change but I think it’s going to be fun to try and get creative with how we cover local sports.

So I plan on keeping this blog and updating it more often. It’s just been difficult to do so with any consistency, however. So I guess what I’m saying is bear with me until the Pioneer Sports staff Death Star is fully operational. Once that happens, I plan on continuing to do this with regularity.

Also: If there’s anything you’d like to see me do in this space as it pertains to Bemidji State sports, let me know. I love reader feedback, and anything I can do to enhance your enjoyment of our coverage of Beaver athletics will be my priority.

And don’t hesitate to give me ideas of how we can cover other area sports going forward. Although my beat is BSU, I’m also really concerned with our overall sports coverage in the Bemidji area. I’d like to see us do fun and new things with all of our sports beats, so shoot me some ideas.

In the meantime, maybe expect some more from me on the blog soon. I promise.

WEEKEND RECAP: Women make the top 10, men swept by another top 10 team

Apologies for the two-week blog hiatus. Reports of my demise (and that of the Beaver Blog) have been greatly exaggerated.

Also false: Reports of the BSU women’s hockey team’s demise.

For the first time since 2012, the Bemidji State women’s hockey team is ranked in the top 10. In the latest USCHO.com poll, the Beavers are No. 9 — ahead of Minnesota-Duluth.

It’s a well-deserved ranking after the Beavers won their third straight (or fourth straight, if you think shootouts count as points) this weekend with a sweep of North Dakota. The Beavers won 4-1 on Friday in a game that didn’t even seem as close as that score indicated, then pulled out a 2-1 victory Saturday to finish off their first sweep of North Dakota since 2007.

It seems like the Beavers are finality on the upswing after going 4-0 to start the season in nonconference play then 0-4 in their first four WCHA games.

However, a tie and a win against Minnesota (5 points with the shootout win) seemed to give BSU some much-needed momentum. After a week off the Beavers came back with tons of energy against UND and didn’t look like a team that had had the previous week off.

Also of note: All six of BSU’s scoring leaders are members of the junior class, which bodes well not just for this season but for next. Kaitlyn Tougas leads the BSU in points with nine while Ivana Bilic has seven. Stephanie Anderson has a team-high four goals.

The team is now 7-4-1 going into yet another bye week (an odd schedule quirk has seen the Beavers have three off weekends already in their first two months). Then, they’ll host Minnesota-Duluth Nov. 28-29. BSU last beat UMD Nov. 23, 2013, in Duluth but have never swept the Bulldogs. It’s a daunting task, but with this BSU team, it seems like “never” is not a word in their vocabulary.

Men swept by another top 10 team

Conversely this weekend at the Sanford Center, the Beaver men’s team once again found itself playing a top 10 team (Michigan Tech, now No. 1 in the country, then No. 5). For the second straight weekend (and third weekend overall this season), the Beavers were swept by a top 10-team. The weekend before, BSU was swept by Minnesota State. The Beavers have also been swept by Minnesota.

It must be frustrating for Tom Serratore’s crew: Tech won 2-1 Friday and 4-2 Saturday but the Beavers outplayed the Huskies in both games. BSU, now 3-7-0, seems to be just on the cusp of greatness but have struggled to put teams away where it counts (namely, special teams).

It’s BSU’s fourth loss in a row. Another ranked team — No. 19 Bowling Green — looms this weekend. It will be another difficult test (BSU’s gotta have one of the toughest schedules in the country) but it’s getting to the point in the season where it’s not early anymore. If the Beavers are going to start making statements as a contender in the WCHA, they need to start now.

Leaders of the Pack

The Michigan Tech Huskies might as well buy some motorcycles and impress the ladies, because for the first time in their 94-year hockey history they are 10-0 and the No. 1 team in the country.

In the USCHO poll (of which I am a voter), the Huskies leaped over North Dakota, Boston U, Minnesota and U-Mass Lowell to claim the top spot. The Gophers were No. 1 before being swept by Minnesota-Duluth in a home-and-home this weekend. UND and Lowell both split their series this weekend while BU played just one game.

Meanwhile the Huskies are the nation’s only undefeated team.

Naysayers (the “WCHA is dead” crowd, of which there are too many) will likely argue that Tech’s strength of schedule is weaker than said teams, but the point is moot (especially since the Huskies are No. 1 in the pairwise) — 10-0-0 is impressive no matter who you’re playing.

Accordingly, they impressed me enough to get my No. 1 vote. I’ve been rolling with the Gophers all season, but the Huskies looked impressive even in a pair of games that, statistically, they should have lost this weekend. It doesn’t hurt that goaltender Jamie Phillips looked, to me, like a legit Hobey Baker candidate this weekend.

In many ways, this year’s Huskies remind me a lot of last season’s Ferris State team: A deep, experienced squad that’s not overly skilled but has an outstanding goalie and finds ways to win.

The Huskies have to lose some day (it could come this weekend, against Minnesota State — which will be a heck of a matchup in Houghton) but right now this roll they’re on is impressive. That’s why they got my (and many other writers’) vote.

Here’s my full ballot for this week. North Dakota doesn’t impress me as much as other writers (they’re No. 2 this week) but my perception may be colored by seeing them get smacked by BSU on opening weekend. I still think the Gophers are a better team than UND.

Anyhow, my entire ballot is as follows:

1. Michigan Tech
2. Boston University
3. Minnesota
4. Colgate
5. North Dakota
6. Lowell
7. Minnesota Duluth
8. Miami
9. Minnesota State
10. Vermont
11. Denver
12. Bowling Green
13. Boston College
14. Northern Michigan
15. Omaha
16. Quinnipiac
17. St. Lawrence
18. Penn State
19. Robert Morris
20. Notre Dame

WEEKEND RECAP: Sweet sweep (and near-sweep) for Beavers

To call it “a pretty solid weekend” for the Bemidji State men’s and women’s hockey teams would be an understatement.

The Beaver men’s team swept away Alaska with a big 6-1 win on Friday and a thrilling 4-3 overtime win on Saturday.

The women’s team, meanwhile, scored a historic pair of games over No. 1 Minnesota at Ridder Arena. The Beavers officially tied the Gophers 2-2 on Friday but won the shootout to earn the two points. Then on Saturday the Beavers won 1-0, marking BSU’s first win over the Gophers since 2011. It added up to a 5-point weekend for BSU.

Sophomore Brittni Mowat was the hero for the Beavers women, making 83 saves on the weekend, including 36 Saturday.

Also notable: Former Gopher Stephanie Anderson scored the game-winner in the shootout Friday, a nice moment for her.

The Beaver women get a bye week before hosting No. 10 North Dakota next weekend. A pair of wins over UND and BSU should find itself back in the top 10.

The Beaver men, meanwhile, head to Mankato for a date with the No. 13 Mavericks.

BSU has played well in all six of its games despite their 3-3 record; however, this weekend’s series against a strong Alaska team (who came into the weekend ranked No. 16) was a bit of a culmination of the progress they’ve made after routing North Dakota 5-1 in the first game.

BSU’s top line of Nate Arentz, Markus Gerbrandt and Brendan Harms all have three goals apiece while fourth-liner Charlie O’Connor, who had two goals in all of last year, also has three.

Arentz was most certainly BSU’s best player last weekend, and was named WCHA offensive player of the week for his efforts. He went off for three goals, two assists, two blocked shots and a plus-six rating against the Nanooks.

Right now I’d put his line against any in the WCHA. They’ve looked that good.

But that’s not all BSU is doing offensively.

The triplet line (of Myles, Gerry and Leo Fitzgerald) have stepped up and played well as freshmen (Myles has two goals already) and the fourth line, with O’Connor, Mitch Cain and Phil Brewer have also added a nice offensive punch to their already fast, physical game.

Defenseman Matt Prapavessis has two goals and two assists and at times looks like a forward with his scoring touch while still being a good defensive presence for BSU.

Really the only line that hasn’t made a huge contribution as far as points scored is Cory Ward’s line. Ward scored the game-winner Saturday, but only has two goals and no assists this season. Winger John Parker doesn’t have any points, while Phil Marinaccio has a goal and two assists.

Obviously it’s still early and Ward (as well as Parker and Marinaccio) has a good track record. If that line can get heated up and start scoring? Watch out.

Polling place

Four WCHA men’s teams are ranked in this week’s USCHO poll, the highest of them being Michigan Tech at No. 9. The Huskies are 6-0-0 following a sweep of Michigan. Also ranked are MSU (No. 13), Ferris State (No. 16) and Northern Michigan (No. 20 and making its debut in the poll). Alaska dropped out, as did Alaska Anchorage, but Bowling Green is on the cusp of the rankings and BSU got some votes.

Here’s the full rankings, with Minnesota still at No. 1

And here’s my ballot, for what it’s worth. I have five WCHA teams in there — no Bemidji State yet, but if they can play well and score a win or two against Minnesota State this weekend I think they’ll deserve a vote.

Also: I like Colgate more than North Dakota. The ‘Gate lost twice — once to a very good St. Cloud State team (who beat the Gophers) and also to an underrated Mercyhurst squad this weekend. (Speaking of the ‘Hurst — I voted for them this week. I realize they have the same record as BSU at 3-3 but they’ve split series with Colgate, Merrimack and Air Force. So maybe I was swayed by that win at Colgate. Regardless, I think they’re a good team.)

1. Minnesota
2. Colgate
3. North Dakota
4. UMass Lowell
5. Boston College
6. St. Cloud State
7. Boston University
8. Minnesota State
9. Vermont
10. Michigan Tech
11. Notre Dame
12. Miami
13. Denver
14. Providence
15. Ferris State
16. Bowling Green
17. Minnesota Duluth
18. Mercyhurst
19. Merrimack
20. Nebraska Omaha

WEEKEND RECAP: Minnesota is good, but Bemidji State proved itself

Last weekend’s sweep at the hands of No. 1 Minnesota might have looked like simple cakewalks for those who simple saw the final scorelines.

At least, Friday night’s game – a 5-2 Gopher win — certainly elicited that reaction from some corners of Twitter. This despite the fact that Minnesota only outshot Bemidji State 32-31 and the Beavers’ defense outplayed the Gophers offense, for the most part, at even strength (of course, the Beavers lost the special teams battle 3-1, which was ultimately the difference in the game).

Saturday’s game was a different story, with the Beavers capturing a pair of leads two different times. The Gophers once again used a key power play goal to earn the 5-3 win.

So, on paper it comes off as two losses for BSU. I’d call it a moral victory but head coach Tom Serratore isn’t one for moral victories.

“I told out guys, we’re making strides and we’ve gotta be happy with that, but we can’t be content with a loss either,” Serratore told Beaver Radio Network following the game.

“We haven’t done anything yet. We’ve played some good hockey, but the bottom line is we’re still 1-3. We know who we’ve played. Played some good teams and we respect those teams. We’ve done well on the road. You have to maintain intensity in the league too, and last time I looked our teams are winning a lot of hockey games in our league. There’s no pushovers there. We better not get too far ahead of ourselves.”

Serratore is always a realist, and he has a point: The Beavers have played well against some good teams but at the end of the season the only thing that actually matters, if you’re looking to make the NCAA Tournament and achieve your ultimate goal of the national title, is wins. Well-played losses, while entertaining for fans, don’t do you much for the pairwise, unfortunately.

But look at it this way: The Beavers are playing about as well this early in the season as a 1-3 team has any business playing. Especially against a pair of the nation’s top teams.

Especially encouraging, at least in my eyes, is the way the Beavers were able to skate with the Gophers on the big ice at Mariucci. That may not have been the case in the past — at least, from what I’ve seen.

Also: BSU’s scoring depth is looking solid. Markus Gerbrandt has scored three goals in four games for BSU, as expected, while Cory Ward continued his hot streak over the Gophers with a goal Friday, but BSU’s fourth-liners have been getting into the mix too. Mitch Cain already has a goal and an assist this season while Charlie O’Connor has also scored a goal and played solid minutes in his three games.

The big question, as Serratore told Beaver Radio Network, will be if the Beavers can sustain this in WCHA play. I have no reason to think they won’t… but that’s why they play the games on paper.

BSU plays three more ranked teams in a row now: Alaska at home, at Minnesota State then Michigan Tech at home. A good record against them should give us a better idea of where the Beavers will end up.

Around the WCHA

Speaking of Michigan Tech, the Huskies pulled off the WCHA upset of the year (so far) when they waltzed into Big Rapids, Mich., and took two games from Ferris State at Ewigleben Arena. The Huskies won 1-0 Friday and 2-1 Saturday. Goalie Jamie Phillips stopped 67 of 68 shots.

Also: Minnesota State swept Huntsville and Northern Michigan swept Lake State. The Chargers and the Lakers, as of right now, both look like they’re going to battle for the cellar.

Right now the WCHA is 17-15-3 in nonconference. Doesn’t seem like a lot but the league was 26-46-12 last season so it’s already an improvement.

Poll position

In case anyone was wondering, I’m a USCHO voter these days. Polls don’t mean a whole lot — it’s all about the Pairwise, baby — but polls still serve a purpose, I believe, in giving writers and coaches the chance to show what teams they’re high on and what teams they’re low on. A team appearing in the polls maybe doesn’t mean anything from a pure “Will this team make the NCAA tournament?” standpoint, but it can mean a lot for teams getting some national respect and recognition.

At least, that’s my philosophy.

Here’s my ballot this week. I’ve got four WCHA teams in there, including Michigan Tech at 14. They made the poll at No. 17. Anchorage dropped out after a loss and a tie at Maine.

1. Minnesota
2. Union
3. Colgate
4. North Dakota
5. Boston College
6. St. Cloud State
7. UMass-Lowell
8. Minnesota State
9. Boston University
10. Providence
11. Cornell
12. Merrimack
13. Ferris State
14. Michigan Tech
15. Alaska
16. Miami
17. Vermont
18. Michigan
19. Minnesota-Duluth
20. Robert Morris

Women also look strong despite losses

The Beaver women’s team had a similar weekend as the men, in that they lost a pair of close games to a top-five team.

Wisconsin won 2-1 Friday and 4-3 Saturday.

The Beavers are still looking for their first WCHA win after starting 4-0-0 in the nonconference.

Not to get repetitive here but obviously moral victories don’t mean anything in the standings. However, Jim Scanlan has the Beavers playing really well despite their 0-4-0 WCHA record. The first-year head coach seems to have the program on the right track and the team is looking more aggressive than we’re used to seeing from BSU teams in the past.

They will take on No. 1 Minnesota in Minneapolis this weekend. I’d like to see if the Beavers will be able to keep up with the Gophers after a good series with the Badgers.

Bemidji State notes: It’s Gopher weekend!

After an off week, Bemidji State plays what may not be the most important series on its schedule — it doesn’t mean anything in terms of conference points — but one that players and fans alike I’m sure have circled three times on their schedule. Minneaota. In Minneapolis.

The Gophers are No. 1, as you might have heard. Here’s my series preview in today’s paper.

Obviously, the Beavers have already ruined one top-five ranked team’s home opener two weeks ago against North Dakota. It would be pretty significant if they could do it again against Minnesota.

The game is on Big Ten Network tonight, which means it’s happening a bit later than normal: 8 p.m. Tomorrow’s game will be on Fox Sports North Plus and will begin at a much more reasonable 7 p.m.

Michael Bitzer is starting tonight’s game for Bemidji State. I’d wager a significant amount of money that Adam Wilcox will do the same for Minnesota. Andrew Walsh will go in Saturday’s game.

Here’s some notes fro the Gopher press:

*The Gophers are looking for some big contributions from their freshman class. Jason Gonzalez of the Star Tribune says highly-touted Swedish recruit Leon Bristedt will make his debut this weekend.

*Like BSU’s Fitzgerald triplets, Gophers have a set of brothers too. Ryan and Connor Reilly are twins while brother Mike is a year younger. The Reillys played against the Fitzgeralds in the BCHL.

*According to the Pioneer Press, the Gophers are hoping to get offense cranked up after two-week break.