BSU women get votes; hoops begins; and other misc. items

After winning the first-ever game in Wisconsin’s brand-new LaBahn Arena, then coming back the next night to tie the Badgers, the Bemidji State women’s hockey team has found itself in the polls for the first time this season.

Granted, they only received a single vote, but any time a team goes  into the house of the defending runners-up and earns four points, they deserve a little recognition.

The question now becomes if the Beavers can keep up this momentum going into Ohio State this weekend.

They’re currently rolling with goaltender Abby Ryplanski, a transfer from Winnipeg who has started the last three games and been outstanding. After taking a tough 1-0 loss against St. Cloud State Oct. 13 (she made 27 saves), the sophomore started both games at Wiconsin, earning her first Beaver win and first shutout of the season in the opener before making 42 saves to earn the tie Sunday.

Bemidji State head coach Steve Sertich said he isn’t going to call Ryplanski his No. 1 goaltender at this point – senior Jessica Havel has also started two games this season and has played well – but right now Ryplanski has the hot hand so the Beavers may keep going with her until she needs a break.

-Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams started practice last week. I haven’t been able to do much on them yet, but Lakeland Public TV had quick features on both teams in last night’s broadcast.

The men, as you know, are trying to get in the swing of things with new coach Mike Boschee.

The women have seven returners and three transfers from last season; they’d like to improve on last year’s nine-win campaign.

-Finally, if you’re interested (and you should be), Lucas Punkari of the Fort Francis Times made the trek to Bemidji from Canada last weekend to watch the BSU/LSSU game and put the finishing touches on his feature about Fort Frances native Mitch Cain. That story went live Wednesday, so here’s a taste.

This post is admittedly all over the place tonight (I can’t focus… I wonder why?), but look for an extended blog post sometime today or tomorrow on the BSU mens’ series at Nebraska-Omaha. It’s their WCHA opener, which should be a nice, polite game against the NCHC-headed Mavericks.

I may, if the spirit moves me, write an additional post on the BSU football team’s game against St. Cloud State. So… look for that.

Until then, if you need me I’ll be watching baseball.

Tidbits from the Boschee press conference

As you probably know by now, new Bemidji State basketball coach Mike Boschee had his first formal press conference Tuesday.

What struck me about the presser was just how familiar Boschee seemed to be with the NSIC and area basketball in general. That’s no surprise; Boschee is from Valley City, N.D., played at North Dakota and coached at Gustavus Adolphus. He coached at Northern State before it was a Division II member.

So while he might not have direct experience in the NSIC, he knows the college game well and knows plenty of people in the Upper Midwest. (And he comes from a basketball pedigree. His brother Jeff was a four-year starter for Kansas under Roy Williams and is currently a coach at Missouri Southern State.)

On Tuesday Boschee addressed a lot of questions – specifically on recruiting – that didn’t make it into the story that appeared in Tuesday’s paper. Here are some of the highlights, both from his press conference and from when I chatted with him one-on-one after the conference. I may have more in upcoming stories for the paper.

On recruiting, and how it will be different from recruiting in Division III:

“To be honest with you, I think it’s going to be very similar. Now, we don’t have scholarships where I come from, which makes it even more difficult. But I think the philosophy is going to be the same. We’re going to recruit good kids with some talent. We’re going to try and recruit the Midwest. Maybe a five-state area. And then we’ll have to pluck some different areas different parts of the country.”

On where he plans to recruit:

“I hope to have a happy medium, to be honest with you. I hope to have a good group of players from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Hopefully we can get down to Iowa a little bit. Hopefully the Dakotas will have some players we can bring in now and then.

To help build your roster I feel like we need to get out of this area a little bit. It’s so heavily recruited in the Midwest, some of the places in other areas, there’s so many players with fewer universities and colleges to go to so they almost have to go out of state. Sometimes recruiting those athletes you can be successful in bringing them up to a school like Bemidji, where they can have a little more relaxed atmosphere, they can concentrate on schoolwork, get a degree and get out of here. We’re going to have to go outside the Midwest a little here.

In the past they may have targeted Arizona a little bit. We have background in Texas, in Colorado and we tried Arizona as well. So I see more similarities than differences at this point.”

On junior college recruiting:

At the schools I was at before we didn’t recruit a lot of junior college players. Now, we had some, but not a lot.

At a school like Bemidji State, in the past they’ve always have some. I see that being the case, but I think in order to build a tradition and have that sustained success, we need to build our players. We need to have them improve on a regular basis, get connectecd with community, get connected with Bemidji State, get them to come back and be great ambassadors for our university, and that’s very important. Sometimes when you only come for a couple years it’s hard to get that connection. Not to say that it’s bad. The right kid can get connected but but it’s a little more difficult.

But we want to have a different mix of people from different areas and obviously junior colleges are going to be one of the things we need to target as well.

On having to play catch-up starting in July:

Ideally we’d like to bring in two to four kids who potentially could help us for next season. If not, at the very least, bring in guys who can be practice players who we can use and build from in the future.

It’s always a challenge this late in the year. But we’ll give them our best offer and hopefully we can snag a few.

Most of the talented kids and the kids you want to have in your program have already been taken up by somebody. It’s a challenge to find someone who’s a good fit for you as a coach and a good fit for your community and and a good fit academically. Trying to find all three of those is a challenge but hopefully we can find a couple.

On his coaching staff:

It’s a process. (The application deadline) will be closed (Wednesday). Then we’ll have a chance to take a look at all the applicants and go from there.

Right now we’re undecided how many. For sure one person, but we may know more in a week or two.

NSIC tweaks postseason formats

Now that the NSIC has 16 teams (a fact that I take issue with… and have been working on a blog post to that effect, so look for it here), the league can afford to do some tweaking to its postseason formats.

According to Andy Renneke of the St. Cloud Times, the league made lots of little changes at its annual summer meetings, held in St. Cloud this week.

Among them:

  • A potential deal to move the men’s and women’s conference tournaments to Sioux Falls, S.D. starting in 2014. The league currently plays the semifinals and finals in Rochester, but with 16 teams it looks like the quarterfinals on will be held in one location, with only first round games at campus sites.
  • A 22-game conference hoops schedule. They league will crown both overall champions and division champions. Bemidji State has been aligned to the North Division along with U-Mary, Minnesota Crookston, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State-Moorhead, Minot State, Northern State and St. Cloud State.
  • The baseball tournament will also likely be moving to Sioux Falls. Augustana would retentivity be the host school, and games would be played at “The Birdcage,” home of the Sioux Falls Pheasants (formerly the Sioux Falls Canaries. This year’s baseball tournament was held in Mankato.

The league hasn’t sent out a press release about this (yet), likely because the the deals haven’t been finalized yet. And I’m not quite sure yet if these divisions will carry over for football. I haven’t been able to talk to NSIC commissioner Butch Raymond but when I do I will put it in this space.

Boschee in as new Bemidji State hoops coach

I meant to update this earlier in the day, but in case you hadn’t heard, Bemidji State hired Mike Boschee as its new head coach.

I wasn’t able to chat with Boschee or athletic director Rick Goeb until later in the day. But both told me they were excited.

There was a bit of a holdup in the coaching search – Goab said a few weeks ago when he announced the final four candidates that he would have liked to make a decision that week.

Well, that obviously didn’t happen and now it will be interesting to see how recruiting goes. Of course, the Beavers have plenty of pieces to work with for next season. But I know the coaching drama already cost BSU a recruit.

Not that there’s anything Boschee or Goeb could do about that. But since it’s July Boschee will have to scramble a bit to assemble his staff and maybe add another player or two.

That said, I talked to Boschee briefly today and he seemed excited to get up to Bemidji and get rolling. He’s had success at the Divison III level (he coached at Central College in Pella, Iowa) but he was also a star at North Dakota and coached at Northern State. So he knows D-II and he knows the area. I think he’ll fit in just fine.

Look for my full story online later tonight and in tomorrow’s paper. In the meantime, here’s an interview with Boschee from the Beaver Radio Network.

BSU hoops: Breaking down the finalists

Since our last update (sorry, it’s been a while), there hasn’t been much movement on the BSU coaching search aside from the fact that South Dakota State assistant Austin Hansen removed himself from the running this past weekend.

That leaves three candidates: Illinois-Chicago’s Al Biancalana, Washington State’s Jeff Hironaka and Central College’s Mike Boschee.

Not sure exactly why Hansen decided to take his name out of the hat; the Sioux Falls Argus Leader said it just wasn’t the right fit for him.

I’ve been able to glean a little bit of information on some of the other candidates and it looks like all three have different approaches to the game, which is nice to see.

Hironaka, who coached Seattle Pacific University for seven successful seasons before going to Washington State, is a master strategist who used the Princeton offense to full effect at Seattle Pacific, according to this story from the Spokane Spokseman-Review. He took SPU to the final four in 2006.

The Los Angeles Japanese Daily News also wrote a nice feature story on him when he took the WSU job in 2009. At the time he was the highest-ranking Japanese-American coach in D-I basketball.

Hironaka told Lakeland TV that he puts a high premium on shot selection – which makes sense considering his history with the Princeton offense. That might fit in well with the Beavers, who last year were the No. 30 team in the nation for field goal shooting (47.9) and the No. 19 3-point shooting team in the nation (38.8).

The Spokseman-Review reported May 17 that Hironaka was “reassigned” to more of a consulting role. This meant he couldn’t recruit off-campus or give on-court instruction. Another report said that Hironaka wasn’t being demoted, but Bone just needed another recruiter.

This move seemed unpopular with Washington State fans. CougCenter, a Washington State blog, called him “the best damn coach on the staff.” If he’s that well loved as an assistant I have a feeling he’ll be very popular among Beaver fans.

The one knock on him, according to my reading, is that he’s not an outstanding recruiter. That, I suppose, is more subjective. And it’s certainly a lot different at the D-I level than it is at the D-II level. You’re not looking for Blue Chips when you’re in the NSIC, you’re looking for guys that fit your program.

I guess it might also be an issue that he’s not a Midwest guy, but that doesn’t really matter – former BSU head coach Matt Bowen had four players on the roster from Arizona in 2011-12. If you get guys to come, it doesn’t matter where they’re from.

If Hironaka is the ultimate college X’s and O’s guy, then UIC assistant Al Biancalana must not be too far behind, especially at the high school. He’s been an assistant at the college level – aside from being the top assistant at UIC, he was also an assistant at Bradley – but has 17 years of experience at the high school level. He won a state championship in California and is well-respected on the Illinois high school circut.

When Biancalana took the UIC job last year, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a blog and a little feature on his move. ESPN Chicago also covered the move, so it’s clear that he’s a well-respected coach, especially when it comes to the X’s and O’s.

I suppose the fact that he’s never been a head coach at the college level might be a problem, but he does have D-I experience. Bradley has a strong basketball tradition and, even though it’s not in a “power conference,” the Missouri Valley is always tough. Bradley made the Sweet 16 in 2006, a year after Biancalana departed for the high school level. You’ve gotta think that he helped recruit a bunch of those guys.

The final candidate, Mike Boschee, is a little harder to pin down.

That’s possibly because Central College, in Pella, Iowa, is an Division-III school and doesn’t get as much coverage as D-I Washington State, or even high school basketball in hoops-crazy Illinois. (I covered high school basketball in Illinois, and I can confirm that it’s legit. Think the Minnesota high school hockey tournament. That kind of fervor.)

Boschee has been at Central since 2003 and has turned the program around in much the same way Bowen did for BSU. The Dutch hadn’t had a winning season in ages before Boschee arrived and in the past five years he’s turned them into a contender. They won the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2009-10 and made the Division III tournament for the first time in 15 years.

I’m not sure what else there is to say about Boschee, most of the information I was able to glean about him comes from his official Central College bio.

But he appears to know the small-college system well (although Central as a liberal arts school is much different from BSU, there are still some similarities). He’s also got Minnesota connections: He was an assistant at Gustavus Adolphus from 1993-2003.

Obviously, I don’t have any inside knowledge on the interview process. And I’m new to the beat and not as familiar with the BSU team as someone who had been here longer.

But if I had to take a (very wild) guess, I would rank Hironaka as the top candidate, just due to his experience and coaching skill. He’s a known commodity in the college coaching world, and has significant success at the D-II level. The other two guys don’t seem to have as much experience at that level.

But – and this is very important – that’s pure speculation on my part*

*Which is something I enjoy, and plan on doing on this blog from time to time. Please bear with me as I learn my way around BSU. One of these days, my opinion will actually have some weight behind it and I won’t just be a guy saying things.

BSU athletic director Rick Goeb said he’d ideally like to have an announcement on the new coach sometime this week. I’m hoping it does come soon, because I’m excited to see the direction the school wants to take the program.

Men’s hoops job posted

The search is on.

The Bemidji State athletic department has finally posted the job listing as it looks to replace former head men’s basketball coach Matt Bowen. It went up online today. You can read the full listing here.

It’s nothing too out of the ordinary for a college coaching job listing. You might find it pretty dull. I found it exceedingly dull, but it has to be written and posted in this way seeing as how BSU is a state institution and all.

Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that despite Bowen’s departure, BSU is in a very enviable position here.

I chatted a bit with AD Rick Goeb yesterday. He told me he was sad to see Bowen leave, both personally and professionally, but he’s excited for the job process. That’s because BSU has a higher profile in men’s basketball than it has in years, and that’s mostly due to the work Bowen did recruiting.

He helped turn the program around, and people are taking notice. Whoever the department ends up hiring, you can be sure they will have an extremely competitive list of candidates to choose from.

(Side note: As you will notice, this blog is finally starting to take shape. Because this is only my fourth post, I still have some kinks to work out. Any reader suggestions are greatly welcomed.)

Bowen to take UMD job

Some breaking news. Bemidji State head basketball coach Matt Bowen has accepted the job at Minnesota Duluth. We’ll have more on this in the paper tomorrow, but here’s some of the press release from BSU:

DULUTH, Minn.  — University of Minnesota Duluth today announced it has hired former Bemidji State University men’s basketball coach  Matt Bowen to succeed long-time head coach Gary Holquist at the helm the Bulldogs’ men’s basketball program.

“I want to thank Matt Bowen for the job he has done in his time as head coach of the Bemidji State men’s basketball program,” said BSU Director of Athletics Dr. Rick Goeb. “He has certainly left the program in much better condition than when he arrived.

“Opportunities like this present themselves because of hard work and success. Over the course of the last six years Matt has worked to build the BSU men’s basketball program from the ground up to an NSIC Championship team in 2011-12.

Goeb added, “We are proud of where the program is right now.”

Bemidji State’s 19th head coach, Bowen leaves BSU tied for fourth in seasons coached and ranks fifth in victories (64).

According to Goeb, a national search to fill the vacant position will begin immediately.

“We are going to move as quickly as possible to fill this position,” said Goeb.

“We are coming off one of the most successful seasons in the 90 years of our basketball program.  The success of this program is forefront in our minds and we will keep the ball rolling.”

Read BSU’s full release here.

Also, UMD’s release can be found here.

Again, look for more on this from us later.

Hello, operator

Welcome to the inaugural post of the Beaver Sports Blog. Please mind the mess while we get this blog up and running. Soon you will find other things on the side rail of this blog, like links and a blogroll and contact information. And there will no longer be random photos of acorns, chess sets and trolley cars above these posts.

If you’d like something to read in the meantime, how about reading about Matt Read? (See what I just did there? You’re welcome.) The Flyers lost Thursday night, but Read is still doing very well this year.

Sen. Al Franken was also on campus at Bemidji State Thursday, and all-star reporter Brian Matthews was there. Read about Franken’s visit here. No word on if he namechecked James Ellisor.

P.S. Points to you if you can identify the artist and album this post’s title refers to.