WEEKEND RECAP: BSU scores four against St. Cloud; WCHA has rough showing in first full weekend; Shootouts are fun?

I’ll have more on this later in the week, but even though the Beavers didn’t pick up a win against St. Cloud State, BSU was happy with their performance against a Huskies team that many expected to roll them before the games last week.

The Beavers scored two goals in each game. Unfortunately for the Beavers, as BSU head coach Tom Serratore said during the weekly press conference Tuesday, “The first to three usually wins.” It was, really, much the same kind of series BSU played last season: Both the one-goal loss on Friday and the tie on Saturday after having a two goal lead. Both of those occurrences happened often last season.

“Offense right now is a work in progress for us, no question,” Serratore said. “But it was nice getting four goals. If we’d have chipped in a power play goal, we might have won one of those games.”

The Beavers rallied from a 2-0 deficit Friday night only to see the Huskies score a shorthanded goal that turned out to be the game-winner a 3-2 win; in that game the Beavers went 0-for-2 on the power play. Highlights here.

Saturday night, BSU had four chances on the power play and couldn’t convert. They settled for a 2-2 tie. See highlights here.

Conversely, SCSU scored a power play goal and a shorty Friday and another power play goal Saturday.

BSU had goals from sophomores Markus Gerbrandt and Cory Ward on Friday and tallies from sophomore Phil Brewer and freshman Nate Arentz Saturday. If you’re scoring at home, that’s three goals from the third line and one from the top line. If the Beavers want to score more goals they’ll need more production from that top line as well as some help from the second line — which has freshmen Brenden Harms and Phil Marinaccio playing with senior Jeff Jubinville. There will be a bit of a learning curve there, to be sure, so it will take some time.

But the Beavers, I think, are happy with how the offense played after just one weekend despite the “work in progress” tag.

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Poll Survivor: WCHA media and coaches poll, plus my ballot

With apologies to the Rolling Stones: The Bemidji Pioneer WCHA Preseason Media Poll is complete. I have survived.

Find the complete media poll here. Shane Frederick’s Mankato Free Press Coaches Poll can be found here.

As expected, Minnesota State was nearly unanimous in both polls.

In the media poll, the Mavericks garnered 22 of 25 first-place votes. Ferris State, a solid second, got two first place votes.

Now, this is where it gets weird.

Bemidji State received a first-place vote and finished eighth in the media poll.

Huh?

Yeah, that’s right. The Beavers got a first-place vote.

I’ve been asked a million times who voted for Bemidji State in the poll. I’m not in the business of telling people who voted for whom. I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, if they want to explain their reasoning they’re free to do so, but I won’t force them to.

All I can tell you is: I didn’t vote for the Beavers to finish first. Neither did any other members of the Bemidji media.

I did have BSU higher than most: I picked the Beavers to take fifth. A little generous? Possibly. But the newly-realigned WCHA is wide open. And I think the Beavers have the potential to be a lot better than they showed last season — especially if Andrew Walsh stays hot all season and the younger front line can score with consistency.

But first place? That’s asking a heck of a lot.

Here’s my full ballot, for good measure:

1. Minnesota State

2. Ferris State

3. Alaska

4. Northern Michigan

5. Bemidji State

6. Bowling Green

7. Lake Superior State

8. Michigan Tech

9. Alabama Huntsville

10. Alaska Anchorage

In hindsight, I think I picked Tech too low. Also, Huntsville and Anchorage in the bottom two spots seems like a given — although I may have flip-flopped the two, I don’t think it matters much because I doubt either will be competing for a playoff spot this year.

I did vote for some BSU players for the All-WCHA teams. Here’s my choices for the All-League, and Player and Rookie of the year votes.

Forwards: Matt Leitner, MSU; Alex Petan, Tech; Ryan Carpenter, BGSU

Defensemen: Matt Prapavessis, BSU; Travis Binkley, Ferris

Goaltender: Andrew Walsh, BSU

Player of the Year: Leitner

Rookie of the Year: Brendan Harms, BSU

I truly think Walsh is up there with any goaltender in college hockey when he’s on. Prapavessis is also a rock-solid defenseman who, I think, deserves more credit.

As for my rookie vote: That award is a crapshoot. Harms is one guy I’d been hearing a lot about from people outside Bemidji. So I picked him. In reality: Who the heck knows with the rookie votes?

I think the main thing to glean from both the media and the coaches polls this year is that, aside from Minnesota State being really good, nobody knows anything.

Which makes this league even more fun than it had been in years past.

During the WCHA coaches teleconference on Wednesday, that was cleat. Bowling Green head coach Chris Bergeron said he wasn’t very familiar with any of the teams in the new league so it was hard for him to vote. Most of them had similar comments.

I’ll have a few more things on the upcoming hockey season this week. First, look for a piece on the BSU women’s hockey team in Thursday’s paper. They open their season this weekend (yeah, I know, it seems early) at Lindenwood in Missouri.

Media days and such

You know a given sports season is just around the corner when conferences start holding media days — you know, the schmooze sessions the conferences hold so that reporters can get a ton of the same quotes from a coach and one or two players.

Well, it’s just about a month until the college hockey season and conferences everywhere are gathering to address the media.

Both new conferences — the Big Ten and the NCHC — gathered Thursday for their media days. The Big Ten held its pow-wow at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul while the NCHC was across the metro area at the Target Center.

(Yeah, I know. Crazy, right? The NCHC directly competing with the Big Ten? It’s almost like they started a whole new conference just to prove something… oh wait.)

Anyway, I digress.

The WCHA isn’t going to have a media day this year, but it will have a conference call next week.

I’m also excited to announce — as I have alluded to on Twitter — that the Bemidji Pioneer conducting this year’s WCHA media poll. We’ll release it next Wednesday in advance of the conference call with coaches; Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press is conducting the coaches poll which will be released the same day.

The NCHC and Big Ten did, however, release their media polls today.

Miami tops the NCHC poll while Wisconsin actually beat out Minnesota for the Big Ten poll. Here’s a look:

Big Ten
1. Wisconsin
2. Minnesota
3. Michigan
4. (tie) Michigan State
4. (tie) Ohio State
6. Penn State

Players to watch: Kyle Rau, F, Minnesota (unanimous pick); Alex Guptill, F, Michigan; Matt Berry, F, Michigan State; Ryan Dzingel, F, Ohio State; Max McCormick, F, Ohio State; Nic Kerdiles, F, Wisconsin; Michael Mersch, F, Wisconsin; Mark Zengerle, F, Wisconsin; Mac Bennett, D, Michigan; Mike Reilly, D, Minnesota; Jake McCabe, D, Wisconsin; Adam Wilcox, G, Minnesota; Jake Hildebrand, G, Michigan State.

NCHC
1. Miami (7 first-place votes)
2. North Dakota (5)
3. St. Cloud State (4)
4. Denver
5. Western Michigan
6. Minnesota Duluth
7. Colorado College
8. Nebraska Omaha

Bemidji State plays Minnesota out of the Big Ten and also plays all of the top three NCHC schools in nonconference play. Not too shabby.

As always follow Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald for coverage of the NCHC, he’s at media day today.

Hockey East and the ECAC haven’t released their preseason polls yet but Atlantic Hockey did; looks like the league will be very balanced this year with four teams getting at least two first-place votes.

Atlantic Hockey
1. Niagara (3)
2. (tie) Mercyhurst (4)
2. (tie) Air Force (2)
4. Canisius (3)
5. RIT
6. Connecticut
7. Robert Morris
8. Holy Cross
9. Bentley
10. Army
11. American International
12. Sacred Heart
BSU women picked seventh
The Bemidji State women’s hockey team was picked to finish tied for seventh out of eight teams in the WCHA’s coaches poll.
Unsurprisingly, Minnesota was chosen to finish first and received seven first-place votes. You can’t vote for your own team in the coaches poll so Wisconsin got the charity first-place vote from Gopher coaches.
The BSU women hope to rebound this year from an awful 2012-13 season that saw them go 6-26-2 overall and 5-22-1 in the conference. They will open the season next Friday — Sept. 27 — at Lindenwood University in Missouri.
I’ll have a preview of the team next week.

I have returned: BSU hockey heads to New Hampshire for tournament

I have returned.

A combination of the holidays, my vacation and other vacations caused this blog to lie dormant for more than 14 days. My apologies for that. But I was in Texas, where it was 65 degrees on Christmas Eve. I make no apologies for this, considering it was 20-below here in the Great White North.

All that said, there is hockey being played Sunday and Monday. Well, technically, there was hockey played Thursday, Friday and Saturday, too, but it didn’t involve Bemidji State.

The Beavers are in Hanover, N.H., Sunday and Monday for Dartmouth’s Ledyard National Bank Tournament.

BSU got something of a fortunate draw in the first round. Instead of having to play No. 2 New Hampshire of No. 10 Dartmouth, the Beavers are set to take on Massachusetts-Amherst (not to be confused with Massachusetts-Lowell) at 3 p.m. Central time Sunday.

Like BSU, UMass is a middle-of-the-pack team in Hockey East. However, unlike BSU, the Minutemen are mired in a three-game losing streak which saw them get swept by No. 20 Colgate and lose another to No. 14 Yale.

The Beavers, meanwhile, are 2-0-1 in their last three games – including a 5-1 drubbing of then No. 10 Denver.

I previewed this weekend’s tournament for Sunday’s paper, so read that story here.

-Also of interest, the Brainerd Dispatch has a nice story about Brainerd native Reid Mimmack, who joined the Beavers Thursday and be in uniform this weekend (possibly… if Dugas or Walsh is scratched for some reason).

-Here’s another preview of the series from UMass hockey blog Fear the Triangle, breaking down all four teams in the tournament.

UMass is currently 5-9-2, with its last win coming Dec. 1 vs. Vermont.

-From the New Hampshire side of things, both the Concord Monitor and the Foster’s Daily Democrat have second-half previews of the No. 2 Wildcats. UNH is 11-2-2, with the only two losses coming to UMass (in overtime) and Boston University. They also tied Colorado College and Northeastern.

-Meanwhile, information on Dartmouth has been harder to come by – no idea why, but I guess Hanover is a bit isolated so they don’t have a full-time hockey beat writer? Not sure. Regardless, the Big Green do have the nation’s top penalty kill (39-for-40) and is undefeated on its home rink.

-IMPORTANT: We do not have a paper on Monday, but look for a little writeup from me on the Web after Sunday’s game. I’m not in New Hampshire (obviously), but I’m going to try and follow along online as best I can. I will try and Tweet a few updates, too. Just follow me @JackHitts.

Beaver hockey gameday: O Pioneers

This is the one time that I get to bust out my Walt Whitman reference on a hockey blog, so I’m taking full advantage:

I suppose that I could technically make this reference at any time of the day, since I work for the Bemidji Pioneer, but I’ll spare you Walt Whitman literary criticism for the time being. (You’re lucky. I have pages and pages of this stuff in my closet.)

The Denver Pioneers come in to the Sanford Center this weekend (7:37 p.m. Friday and 7:07 p.m. Saturday, and Bemidji State may need to bring its pistols and sharp-edged axes to this game.

Denver is in the midst of a six-game winless streak. They’ve played Yale, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and North Dakota in the past three weeks, and have been unable to pick up a win. They will certainly be hungry for one against BSU, who finally got on track and picked up a win last weekend against UMD. The Beaver players I talked to seemed to realize this series would be tough, but they’re eager to face the ranked Pios at home.

Not certain who is going in goal for BSU tonight, but Denver will roll with Jussi Olkinuora tonight. The sophomore from Finland has gone 0-1-2 in his last three starts but has only allowed five goals.

Shane Frederick, beat writer for the Mankato Free Press and noted Mighty Mighty Bosstones scholar, has compiled a roundup of links from around the WCHA for today’s games. I will direct you to his blog, because that means I don’t have to do as much typing and linking.

Game tonight starts at 7:37. As always, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Twitter (@Jackhitts) so drop me a line if you have any questions. Look for lineups and line charts on there, too.

Lines for Friday’s game:

BEMIDI STATE

Ben Kinne – Aaron McLeod – Jordan George
Radoslav Illo – Cory Ward – Danny Mattson
Brance Orban – Jeff Jubinville – David Boehm
Markus Gerbrandt – Mitch Cain – Brad Robbins

Jake Areshenko – Brady Wacker
Matt Carlson – Matt Prapavessis
Sam Rendle – Sam Windle

Andrew Walsh
Mathieu Dugas

DENVER

Grant Arnold – Nick Shore – Chris Knowlton
Gabe Levin – Shawn Ostrow – Daniel Doremus
Ty Loney – Quentin Shore – Matt Tabrum
– – Zac Larraza

Dakota Mermis – Paul Phillips
Joey LaLeggia – Scott Mayfield
Nolan Zajac – David Makowski

Juho Olkinuora
Sam Brittain

Beavers travel to Mankato for key WCHA series

Working the graveyard shift tonight to make sure I get this blog post up in a timely manner.

Especially since there’s been plenty of big news from Bemidji State this week, what with BSU athletic director Rick Goeb’s termination effective at the end of the school year and the affiliated report on BSU athletics that came with the firing. You can expect much more on that report from us in the coming weeks.

But back on the ice for the Beavers, it’s business as usual. BSU travels to Mankato Friday and Saturday for another “must-win” type of series. Bemidji and Minnesota State are locked in a three-way tie for seventh with six points in the conference (along with Michigan Tech). Both teams will be wanting to take at least two points – if not more – to break the deadlock in the middle of the conference.

For BSU, Mathieu Dugas will once again start at goal on Friday, as Tom Serratore said he’s going to keep riding with the hot hand.

Dugas will be facing a red-hot Mavericks team that has been scoring a ton of power-play goals, specifically Matt Leitner.

Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press has a nice story on Leitner, who leads the Mavs with 15 points in 12 games and has top-notch rink vision.

Frederick’s got a quick-hits capsule on the series, which you should read.

I won’t be going down to the game but I will be attempting to follow through the radio and through the Twitter-verse. Follow me (@Jackhitts) for some thoughts culled from a radio broadcast (which may not be wise, but it might be funny).

Also, follow Frederick (@puckato). Hopefully I can convince him to live-Tweet the entire series using nothing but Wilco lyrics, something which I was too scared to do as a rookie a few weeks ago. Maybe the veteran can come through for all of us.

BSU vs. UAA series postgame: The hockey gods hate me

I’m pretty sure it’s official: The hockey gods do not like me very much.

For the fourth straight game at the Sanford Center, Bemidji State’s fate was not decided until the final minutes of play. The Beavers went to overtime Friday night and settled for a 2-2 tie with Alaska Anchorage. This after losing both games of last weekend’s series against Michigan Tech in overtime.

Saturday night was slightly different. This time the Beavers (thankfully for the Pioneer’s deadline) did not go to overtime. But it wasn’t until the final buzzer that BSU could breathe a sigh of relief.

Sam Rendle scored the game-winner with just 2:29 left in regulation and the Beavers held on to beat the Seawolves – their first win in the month of November.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a game at the Sanford Center without a major delay. Our deadlines at the Pioneer on Saturdays are a ridiculously early 10:30 p.m. Last Saturday, BSU forced overtime then lose the game with just 30 seconds to go. I wasn’t able to do interviews.

In this game, there was no overtime, but a 20-minute delay after a Zamboni malfunction in the first intermission sunk any chances I had of going down to the media room after this one.

Luckily for you, the BSU media people have kindly recorded the Beaver press conference and put it online. You can see it for yourself at the top of the page. The story in Sunday’s paper went to press without quotes, but I’ve added a few to the story online, which you can find here.

The point of all this wasn’t to complain (well, not the MAIN point), but to say I have a few thoughts about this series that I couldn’t fit in my stories this weekend. Here goes:

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Jason Ford is latest in series of strong BSU commitments

Bemidji State’s recruiting class is looking stronger every week.

After getting two strong commitments in the past three weeks, the Beavers got a third Monday in Jason Ford, a forward for the Janesville Jets of the NAHL. He broke the news on his Twitter, and Andy Johnson of the Western College Hockey blog alerted me to the news with his post last night.

Ford, a Waunakee, Wis., native, led the state in scoring as a high school senior a year ago and currently leads the Jets in scoring through 16 games.

The  6’0, 180 pound forward is only the latest in what looks like a very solid recruiting class coming in next year and the year after.

And he’s the third high-profile recruit to commit to BSU in October.

The Beavers also got verbals from former Moorhead goalie Michael Bitzer, who picked BSU over MSU Mankato and Bowling Green, and Brett Beauvais, a 5-11 defender on the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings of the NAHL.

It’s a nice looking group. None of them are sure when they’d be attending BSU – either next year or the year after – but it seems like despite the reorganization of the conferences next season BSU will do just fine getting recruits to come to Bemidji.

Part of that may have something to do with the fact that the Sanford Center is one of the nicest venues around.

Bizter and Ford both cited the arena as one of the main reasons why they’re coming to Bemidji – that and the coaching staff.

I’m not sure how many more verbals the Beavers will get this season but I’ll do my best to update when I know about them. Meanwhile, here’s a list of all the confirmed future Beavers, via Millsy and The Beaver Pond.

Bob Kinne, F, Bismarck Bobcats (NAHL), St. Paul, Minn.

Brendan Harms, F, Fargo Force (USHL), Steinbach, Man.

Corey Petrash, F, Ceder Rapids Roughriders (USHL), East St. Paul, Man.

Carter Struthers, D, Weyburn Redwings (SJHL), Weyburn, Sask.

Mike Soucier, F, Wellington Dukes (OJHL), Mississauga, Ont.

Phillip Marinaccio, F, Chicago Steel (USHL), Woodbridge, Ont.

Charlie O’Connor, F, Chicago Steel (USHL), Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Brady Riesgraf, D, Coulee Region Chill (NAHL), Chaska, Minn.

Michael Bitzer, G, Lincoln Stars (USHL), Moorhead, Minn.

Brett Beauvais, D, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings (NAHL), Summerside, Prince Edward Island

Jason Ford, F, Janesville Jets (NAHL), Waunakee, Wis.

BEAVERS RECEIVE VOTES IN LATEST POLL

One more piece of news surprised me a little Monday night. In the latest USCHO.com poll, Bemidji State revived 12 votes:

1 Boston College (38) 4- 1-0 981 1
2 Minnesota ( 3) 4- 1-0 924 2
3 Denver ( 6) 4- 0-0 862 5
4 Miami 4- 1-1 792 3
5 North Dakota 2- 1-1 769 4
6 Cornell 2- 0-0 739 7
7 Notre Dame 5- 1-0 677 9
8 Michigan 3- 2-0 663 6
9 New Hampshire ( 2) 4- 0-1 597 12
10 Union ( 1) 3- 1-1 596 8
11 Western Michigan 3- 1-0 529 10
12 Boston University 3- 1-0 487 13
13 Harvard 1- 0-0 291 17
14 Massachusetts-Lowell 1- 3-1 239 11
15 Northeastern 2- 2-1 227 15
16 St. Lawrence 3- 1-0 180 NR
17 Minnesota-Duluth 2- 3-1 172 14
18 St. Cloud State 4- 2-0 162 NR
19 Ferris State 2- 2-2 146 18
20 Northern Michigan 3- 3-0 131 16

Others receiving votes: Providence 66, Colorado College 53, Quinnipiac 45, Wisconsin 44, Yale 27, Holy Cross 23, Alaska 16, Dartmouth 15, Bemidji State 12, Lake Superior 7, Ohio State 5, Michigan State 4, Michigan Tech 3, Nebraska-Omaha 3, Colgate 1.

A bit of an interesting choice. Obviously the Beavers had an outstanding weekend in Nebraska-Omaha, rallying for a tie Friday before beating UNO Saturday. But I’m not sure I’d be willing to vote for them in a national poll just yet.

Obviously, the point is moot since I do not have a vote of any kind, but I would wait a week and see how they Beavers do against Colorado College. If they can get some points on the road in their final conference series in Colorado Springs, I think we can start talking about them as a top-20 team.

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.

Hockey season gets real: BSU women open tonight

It’s fitting that we had a snowstorm last night: It makes the transition to hockey season even simpler. And luckily, the Bemidji State women play at Providence tonight to open their 2012-13 season.

I didn’t have a lot of time to preview this series for the women (a couple days off, football homecoming, weird scheduling, etc.), but I was able to do a mini-preview of the team last week.

The BSU game notes can be found here. They don’t have line charts or defensive pairings on them, so I’m not going to try and make any bold predictions on that front.

But I suspect that this series will tell us a lot about where the Beavers are as a team. Last season the Friars and the Beavers were nearly identical – both at around .500 and in the middle of their respective conferences. This year the teams look similar again, only I get the sense that the Friars have not lost nearly as much as the Beavers.

Anyway, it won’t do us much good to project with the season starting in approximately four hours. Puck drops at 6 p.m. in Providence and you can follow the whole thing on the radio on the Beaver Radio Network.