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.
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.
4. North Dakota
5. Boston College
6. St. Cloud State
8. Minnesota State
9. Boston University
13. Ferris State
14. Michigan Tech
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.