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

North Star Cup moved to Saturday-Sunday

NORTH STAR CUP

Hey there. So it’s been a month or so since the last update but with vacations and the dog days of summer, there really hasn’t been much to update on the BSU sports front.

However, now that school is officially in session (classes started Monday) we have some legitimate news: It turns out this season’s North Star College Cup will move from the traditional Friday-Saturday schedule it has used for the past two years and instead change to a Saturday-Sunday schedule at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

So when the Beavers play to defend their title this year, they will be doing it at a more opportune date and time for those in Northern Minnesota who may not be able to travel to the Twin Cities for a Friday afternoon game. They’ll play the Gophers at 4 p.m. Saturday — the second of two semifinal games that afternoon.

Last season the Beavers played Minensota Duluth in a Friday afternoon semifinal game; the stands appeared to be maybe half full for that contest. In Saturday night’s final against Minnesota State there appeared to be a few more fans who showed up to watch BSU beat the Mavs.

This season, the Beavers were to play Minnesota in Friday night’s game. That’s a little more ideal for folks traveling from the Bemidji area, but it’s still a “I have to leave early and take the afternoon off to avoid rush hour traffic to make it to the game on time” situation for most.

The move to a Saturday-Sunday schedule gives everybody a little more time and should guarantee a bigger crowd for both games. Minnesota State and St. Cloud play in the first game, and even though both schools are less than two hours from St. Paul, they will certainly benefit from playing Saturday afternoon as opposed to Friday afternoon.

It doesn’t look like there’s a scheduling conflict that prompted this, either — the Wild are off because that’s All-Star week, and I don’t see any concerts on the schedule for the week previous (unless the X has something big that they haven’t announced yet).

If that’s the case, than this is a good thing: It means tournament organizers actually listened to the fans (and the school administrators and coaches who want their fans to watch games in person). I know plenty of Beaver fans who wanted to go to both games last season but couldn’t take the time off work. This gives them the chance.

-One more scheduling note for the BSU men’s team: The Beavers have added an exhibition game to their schedule for the first time since 2012.

And much like 2012, they will again be playing the University of Manitoba.

The teams will face off on Sunday, Oct. 4, at the Sanford Center. It will be a 1:35 p.m. game.

For what it’s worth, the teams skated to a 3-3 tie last time they played. Brad Robbins and Danny Mattson scored two of the Beavers’ three goals; neither are with the program anymore. Cory Ward scored BSU’s other goal. BSU’s two netminders were Mathieu Dugas and Fabian Sivnert.

Anyway, as you can see, it’s basically a whole new Beavers team (that version of the Beavs had just 6 wins all season) so it should be interesting to see where they stand this time around. They haven’t had any exhibitions the past two seasons so this could be a good warmup for the season opener against Duluth.

-Finally, the Bemidji State women start the season exactly a month from now (Sept. 25 at home against Robert Morris).

Senior defender Ivana Bilic has already started her season. She was a member of the Team Canada National Development team this summer, and played in a three-game series against Team USA last week at Lake Placid, N.Y. Bilic saw time in all three games but didn’t have a point (and had an even plus/minus ranking).

Nothing fancy, but if anything this is going to prepare her for this upcoming season very well.

BSU women 2015-16: Look out, everyone

I did a post yesterday breaking down the Bemidji State men’s hockey roster for the upcoming season.

Because there are just 85 days until the BSU women start their season with a series against Robert Morris on Sept. 25 — the men start in 99 days — I thought it would be best to do the same for the ladies.

And from the looks of it? This team is just going to be even better than they were last year. There are 21 players returning for BSU following their program-record 21-17-1 season in 2015. All four leading point scorers (Kaitlyn Tougas, Stephanie Anderson, Ivana Bilic and Alexis Joyce) have returned, as has their All-American goalie (Brittni Mowat).

This is essentially the same team, minus captain Kristine Grenier, top-line forward Alex Citrowske and a few other depth forwards (Rachael Kelly, Jenessa Philipczyk) and defenders (Kaleigh Chapman).

The Beavers don’t have a whole lot of pieces to replace, but even so the incoming newcomers class looks pretty good. There are five freshman and a transfer. Here’s a look:

5-Melissa Hunt, freshman D
10-Emily Bergland, freshman F
13-Sylvia Marolt, freshman F
18-Lisa Laiti, freshman D
27-Natalie Stanwood, freshman D
28-Bailey Wright, sophomore F (transfer from UMD… sat out last season so not technically a newcomer but she will be able to play this year)

This class looks really solid. Bergland and Marolt were both members of Thief River Falls’ 2015 Class A Minnesota state championship team. Bergland was first-team All-State and scored the game-winning goal for the Prowlers in the title game; she finished the season with 66 points (32 goals). Marolt had 43 points for the Prowlers.

Don’t know much about the other players, although the additions of Laiti and Wright give BSU three players from Alaska. (Oddly, Minnesota and Alaska are the only two US states represented on the roster — the rest are Canadian.) They’ll join Whitney Wivoda as the three Alaskans on the squad.

-The only non-senior departure from last season was goaltender Hannah Paulson, but she didn’t make it into a game last season.

-Looking into it further, there are nine seniors on the roster. Steve Sertich brought in a pretty good class four years ago.

Here’s the breakdown:

Seniors (9): Kristin Huber, Megan Lushanko, Kaitlyn Tougas, Whitney Wivoda, Steph Anderson, Tegan Rose, Ivina Bilic, Mackenzie Brunch, Hannah Moher. Juniors (4): Madison Hutchinson, Carley Esse, Lauren Miller, Brittni Mowat. Sophomores (8): Reilly Fawcett, Ciscely Nelson, Emma Terres, Alexis Joyce, Summer Thibodeau, Alex Bond, Bailey Wright, Erin Deters. Freshmen (5): Melissa Hunt, Emily Bergland, Sylvia Marolt, Lisa Laiti, Natalie Stanwood.

-There are 14 Americans and 12 Canadians on the team.

As far as states and provinces go, Minnesota is the best-represented with 11 players on the team (Fawcett, Esse, Lushanko, Bergland, Marolt, Nelson, Anderson, Terres, Joyce, Thibodeau, Deters). The other three Americans are the aforementioned from Alaska.

Canadian provinces represented are Ontario (5: Tougas, Miller, Bond, Brunch, Moher); Manitoba (3: Hutchinson, Hunt, Mowat); British Columbia (3: Huber, Stanwood, Bilic); Alberta (1: Rose).

Starting the countdown to 2015-16

Hey there. Just checking in after what has been a relaxing (but boring) summer so far. It turns out there are exactly 100 days until the Bemidji State men’s hockey team opens the season at Minnesota Duluth (game is Oct. 9 in Duluth).

So that’s exciting!

And because it’s July 1, I may as well post BSU’s men’s roster. I think it’s been up for a while now, but since I saw MSU beat writer Shane Frederick post about the new Mavericks’ roster today I thought I would steal an idea from him and do the same for BSU’s. (It won’t be the first time I stole one of his good ideas on MSU and used it in my BSU coverage.)

Here are Bemidji State’s seven new incoming recruits, along with their uniform numbers.

2-Dan Billett, freshman D
5-Ian Janco, freshman D
7-TJ Roo, freshman F
16-Mike Soucier, freshman F
17-Adam Lovick, freshman F
20-Dillon Eichstadt, freshman D
29-Justin Baudry, freshman D

Some notes:

-The roster lists Janco as No. 5, but that’s Carter Struthers’ number. I’m guessing they won’t both be No. 5 so one will end up taking Sam Windle’s No. 4. I guess I’ll find out who later.

-Also of note: Just when you got used to identifying BSU’s set of triplets by their numbers, one of them had to go and change it on me. Lovick took Leo Fitzgerald’s No. 17. I assume Leo wanted to switch numbers, which is why he went to No. 19 (that was former co-captain Phil Brewer’s). Gerry and Miles kept Nos. 21 and 26, respectively, so BSU fans only have to remember that the triplet line is now 19-21-26, not 17-21-26. Good to know.

-No other number changes for current players that I can see here. And it looks like BSU hasn’t announced their captains for this season yet, so we’ll have to stay tuned on those. I know some teams announce them in the spring and summer but BSU usually holds off until the team comes back for the fall.

-Breaking down the roster by class: Seniors (4) – John Parker, Graeme McCormack, Cory Ward, Markus Gerbrandt. Juniors (6) – Carter Struthers, Phillip Marinaccio, Nate Arentz, Brendan Harms, Charlie O’Connor, Ruslan Pedan. Sophomores (9) – Michael Bitzer, Kyle Bauman, Jordsn Heller, Leo Fitzgerald, Gerry Fitzgerald, Myles Fitzgerald, Brett Beauvais, Reid Mimmack, Jesse Wilkins. Freshman (8) – Dan Billett, Ian Janco, Jay Dickman, TJ Roo, Mike Soucier, Adam Lovick, Dillon Eichstadt, Justin Baudry.

-Dickman didn’t see any playing time last season so it looks like he’s retaining freshman eligibility as a redshirt. Wilkins also didn’t play last year due to injuury so it looks like he’s listed as a sophomore. Struthers was injured too doesn’t look like he’s taking a redshirt. Not sure how it all works (sometimes they don’t figure out the redshirt stuff until the season is closer to starting) but I’m going to go by how the roster has them listed for now.

-As for the breakdown by state/province/country, here’s the list. Nine Minnesotans on the team, including four from Northern Minnesota (Heller, Eichstadt, Bitzer, Mimmack)

-United States (14) – Minnesota (9): Bitzer, Janco, Dickman, Roo, Arentz, Heller, Lovick, Eichstadt, Mimmack. Colorado (1): Billett. New Jersey (1): Parker. Nevada (1): Ward. Florida (1): Bauman. Illinois (1) O’Connor.

-Canada (12) – Ontario (3): Marinaccio, McCormack, Soucier. British Columbia (3): Fitzgerald triplets. Manitoba (2): Harms, Baudry. Alberta (2): Gerbrandt, Wilkins. Saskatchewan (1): Struthers. Prince Edward Island (1): Beauvais.

-Russia (1) – Ruslan Pedan.

That about does it. Stay tuned for a similar post on the women’s team (they start in 86 days).

 

Recruiting update: BSU signs five more, nets some verbals, etc.

With the schedule finally being released, Beaver fans now now where they’re going to be headed for the 2015 and 16 seasons.

Up next: Getting to know who they’ll be watching on the ice.

The Beavers announced Wednesday that five new recruits had signed national letters of intent recently, bringing the incoming freshman class up to seven for 2015-16. A few players also made verbals to BSU recently, so I’ll go over those guys as well.

Anyway, the five who signed are: Adam Lovick (Lino Lakes), Justin Baudry (LaBroquerie, Manitoba), Ian Janco (Bloomington), Daniel Billett (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and Michael Soucier (Caledon, Ontario). They join previously-signed Bemidji native Dillon Eichstadt and TJ Roo (Champlin). If you’re scoring at home, that’s four defensemen and three forwards.

Considering the Beavers lost a ton of blue-line depth with the departure of Matt Prapavessis, Sam Windle and Sam Rendle to graduation, the fact that more than half of the 2015 class are blueliners makes sense.

Here’s a rundown on each of the seven incoming players.

One thing I noticed with this year’s class that’s a little different in the past: All seven played in American junior leagues this past season. Usually the Beavers have one or two guys from the BCHL, but not this season.

Also, four of the incoming recruits played for the Aberdeen Wings of the NAHL, continuing a nice pipeline that current BSU assistant coach Travis Winter kind of set up when he was the head coach in Aberdeen. Current Beavers Cory Ward and Jordan Heller also played in Aberdeen.

Anyway, we’ll start with the local kid and work from there.

Dillon Eichstadt, D (Sioux Falls, USHL, 6-0, 167; 2/7/1994)

The former Lumberjack made his verbal commitment to BSU way back in May of 2014 when he was playing with Aberdeen of the NAHL. Perhaps not coincidentally, Winter was his head coach in Aberdeen. Since then, he joined the Sioux Falls Stampede and is the top-scoring defenseman on the team (7g-19a-26pts, +6). The Stampede is still alive in the USHL Clark Cup Final and Eichstadt has 6 points — all assists — during the team’s playoff run.

TJ Roo, F (Fargo, USHL, 5-11, 186; 4/30/1994)

Another former Aberdeen Wing who was the 2013-14 NAHL Rookie of the Year. He signed in Novembver along with Eichstandt and spent this past season with the Fargo Force of the USHL. In 60 games with the Force, Roo had 13 goals and 12 assists. Roo played in high school for Totino-Grace between 2009-2013. He was a finalist for Mr. Hockey Minnesota in 2013. Also: Roo’s dad Jim played for BSU from 1981-86.

Adam Lovick, F (Coulee Region, NAHL, 6-0, 185; 5/18/1994)

Played three years for the Coulee Region Chill and was the fifth-leading scorer and tied for third in goals scored in the NAHL (30g-36a-66pts) this past season. Had six points in five playoff games for the Chill, who were ousted by Minnesota in the first round of the NAHL playoffs. Centennial High School graduate.

Justin Baudry, D (Fargo, USHL, 5-11, 186; 10/23/1996)

A second Fargo Force player coming in this season. (They, by the way, have another solid pipeline to BSU, with a couple Beaver recruits still there next season). Top scoring defenseman for Fargo with just two goals but 30 assists — the most on the team. Also led the Force with 15 power play assists (15). An alternate captain, he could develop into a puck-moving D-man in the vein of Matt Prapavessis.

Ian Janco, D (Janesville, NAHL, 6-1, 190; 7/27/1994)

A somewhat recent (January of 2015) commit, Janco is playing his third season in the NAHL, and his first for Janesville (where current BSU D-man Ruslan Pedan also played a season of juniors). The Jets are still alive for the NAHL’s Robertson Cup and Janco, an alternate captain, has helped them on the ice, with a plus-33 and 21 points. Bloomington native who played his high school puck at Jefferson.

Daniel Billett, D (Aberdeen, NAHL, 6-1, 200; 2/17/1995)

The fourth defenseman of the 2014 class. He was limited due to injury this season and only played 15 games, but has 19 points (3g-16a) in 72 games played. He’s a Colorado native who played for Culver Military Academy in Indiana in high school.

Michael Soucier F (Aberdeen, NAHL, 5-9, 170; 2/11/1995)

The seventh incoming recruit is another Aberdeen Wing (there’s a lot of them). He scored 17 goals and 18 assists for 35 points — second on the team. He also had nine power play tallies to lead Aberdeen. The Ontario native previously played for the Wellington Dukes in the Ontario Junior Hockey League and also has played for the Canada East U-19 team in 2012-13 and 2013-14 in the World Junior A Challenge.

That’s the class. Seems like a lot but the Beavers lost six players to graduation — the aforementioned defense men, plus forwards Phil Brewer and Mitch Cain and goalie Andrew Walsh.

Next season’s forward group looks pretty crowded with maybe one consistent lineup up for grabs — Brewer saw lots of playing time but usually on the third line, while Cain was in and out last season with some injuries.

But it’s that defense group which will probably see the most playing time early as the Beavers figure out who fits in where.

2016 AND BEYOND

OK, so those are the guys who we know are coming in next season. What about after that?

Continue reading

It’s schedule release day!

Not quite the “most wonderful time of the year” but it’s certainly “the most wonderful time of May for a beatwriter who needs content”: It’s schedule release day!

This season the WCHA decided to roll out all their schedules — men’s and women’s — at the same time. Not a bad marketing idea.

While we knew much of BSU’s men’s schedule — the nonconference games, for the most part, have been out there for a while — the women’s schedule was still a toss-up.

Well, no more: We have full slates for both teams right now.

The women released their schedule first and it starts Sept. 25-26 at home against Robert Morris. They only have theee nonconference series on the schedule: Bobby Mo, at Vermont and home against Lindenwood.

Interestingly, the women also get a home and home with North Dakota Oct. 16-17 and Dec. 4-5. That first one is the same days as the men’s series against North Dakota, which is a great opportunity for a rivalry doubleheader for both teams. That one should be a lot of fun.

The men have three nonconference series, too — home-and-homes with Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota the first two weekends of the season, as well as a home series against Division I newcomer Arizona State Jan. 16-17.

The Beavers will also be back at the North Star College Cup to defend their title. That one is set for Jan. 29-30.

As for the conference schedule, the Beavers are going to Alaska twice this season, but they’re doing it back-to-back so they’ll be up there for a week.

BSU plays two series each with Minnesota State, Alabama Huntsville, Alaska, Ferris State and Lake Superior State.

The Beavers won’t have to travel to Michigan Tech or Bowling Green this year but they also don’t host either Northern Michigan or Alaska Anchorage.

Find the full women’s schedule here and the full men’s slate here. I’ll have a full story in tomorrow’s paper with some reactions.

 

2014-15 OFFSEASON UPDATE

It seems like the seasons have changed for good and spring is finally here.

The college hockey season is also officially over, as Providence beat Boston University on Saturday night in the Frozen Four for an improbably national title.

That means we can start looking ahead to the 2015-16 Beaver hockey seasons. The BSU women start Sept. 28 at home against Robert Morris, while the men will play in early October.

I think both teams are poised to keep improving next season.

The women will have a tough task ahead of them after a 20-win season. They’re not going to be the underdogs anymore, and I think they’ll be expected to finish in the top half of the WCHA and beat the Minnesotas, Wisconsins and North Dakotas of the world on a regular basis.

They’ve got mostly everyone back, including All-American goaltender Brittni Mowat, gold-medalist Stephanie Anderson, top D-pairing of Ivana Bilic and Alexis Joyce and top scorer Kaitlyn Tougas. If there’s any team that’s ready to take the next step and make its first-ever NCAA tournament, it’s this one.

(Speaking of Anderson, check out my feature on her gold-medal winning tournament here if you missed it on Sunday.)

The men are also poised to improve next season but have some holes to fill without their top three defensemen (Matt Prapavessis, Sam Windle and Sazm Rendle). The Beavers lost three others to graduation (also forwards Phil Brewer and Mitch Cain and goalie Andrew Walsh) but the three D-men will be a blog blow.

Prapavessis (who had his first pro point with the Rochester Americans of the AHL last week — check the video of the assist here, starts around 1:14, heck of a centering pass) and Brewer (who has caught on with Tulsa of the ECHL and has played well) will also be missed from a leadership standpoint in the locker room.

But the Beavers have Michael Bitzer back in net and a ton of solid scoring (Brendan Harms, Nate Arentz, Charlie O’Connor, the Fitzgerald triplets, etc.) so it will be interesting to see how they develop.

I’m not sure exactly when the 2015 season starts but Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported BSU and North Dakota are playing another home-and-home series in mid-October.

I’ve also heard that the nonconference schedule includes a home-and-home with Minnesota Duluth and a home series against Division I newcomer Arizona State. They’ll also be back in the North Star College Cup to defend their title.

The Beavers are scheduled to go to Alaska twice this season, so they have the option of scheduling 38 games this year. Not sure if they’ll use all 38 or get an extra bye going to Alaska, but the schedule should be out in the next week or so and I’ll know more.

And finally: I’m sure you heard about the Beaver baseball team’s record-setting game against Minnesota State on Saturday. If you didn’t, please take the time to read Pioneer reporter Ryan Pietruszewski’s game story. It includes all the glorious details, including the CAR FIRE DELAY in the fifth inning.

Check back here later this month for more. I plan on doing some updates on the incoming recruiting classes for the men and the women as well as something on the football team’s spring practices.

Poll Position

Just a final FYI, here’s my final USCHO poll of the 2014-15 season. Providence is No. 1 since they won the whole damn thing. I picked Bowling Green as No. 17 — as the last team out of the tournament they really needed one result to go their way and they, and not Providence, might have been in. Funny how college hockey works sometimes, isn’t it?

Here’s the full poll. Not sure who picked Boston U.

1. Providence

2. Boston
3. North Dakota
4. Omaha
5. Minnesota State
6. Denver
7. Duluth
8. St. Cloud
9. Michigan Tech
10. RIT
11. Harvard
12. Yale
13. Minnesota
14. Quinnipiac
15. Boston College
16. Miami
17. Bowling Green
18. Michigan
19. Colgate
20. Vermont

March Madness for Bemidji hockey teams

Hey there, I’l still alive.

Lots has happened since the last update (BSU won the North Star College Cup), but here’s the simple update:

-The Beaver men’s team hosts Minnesota State this weekend in their regular season finale. Lots is on the line for both teams: Fore the Beavers, it’s a home ice slot. For the Mavericks, it’s the MacNaughton Cup.

BSU is one point up on Northern Michigan for fourth place. There are a bunch of scenarios that will clinch home ice for the Beavers, but the simplest one is win twice and clinch. (BSU could also win Friday and have Northern lose Friday and clinch that way).

For Mankato, they’re three points up on Michigan Tech for first place. Just a single point wins it for them.

Sounds simple, right? (Ha!)

Look for more on this later this week.

-Also this weekend: The Beaver women’s team is still alive.

BSU beat Minnesota Duluth in their best-of-three playoff series — including a thrilling come-from-behind overtime winner on Sunday — to advance to the WCHA Final Faceoff for the first time since 2010.

They get to play Minnesota, a team they’ve played very well against, in their semifinal game.

I’ll have more on this soon, too. But in the meantime, watch video of Kaitlyn Tougas’ overtime winner here.

-Finally (but not least): Bemidji High School is going back to state for the first time since 1986. (That’s four months before I was born, in case you were wondering.) We’ll have complete coverage of that from the X so be sure to pick up the paper tomorrow for a special story.

USCHO Poll

Beavers slowly gaining steam in the polls. Guess that’s what happens when you’re over .500 for the first time since Oct. 10. I had them as No. 17 in my poll. Maybe high, but few teams are as hot as the Beavers are right now. They got 19 total votes so I’m not the only one to think so. Here’s the poll, below are my choices.

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

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