WCHA coaches, media pick Minnesota State as No. 1

The WCHA coaches conference call is starting now. With that, both my Bemidji Pioneer preseason media poll and Shane Frederick’s Mankato Free Press coaches poll will be released

Here’s the press release for both polls. I’ll have more later, but here you go:

2014-15 Bemidji Pioneer WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Media Poll

Rk           Team (1st place votes)          Points
1.            Minnesota State (23)                  256
2.            Ferris State (4)                               226
3.            Bowling Green                               180
4.            Michigan Tech                                178
5.            Alaska                                                163
6.            Alaska Anchorage                         128
7.            Northern Michigan                       112
8.            Bemidji State                                  101
9.            Lake Superior State                        60
10.          Alabama Huntsville                         26

Predicted order of finish. Based on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.

Preseason WCHA Player of the Year
Matt Leitner, Sr., F, Minnesota State

Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year
Mark Friedman, D, Bowling Green

Preseason All-WCHA Team

Tyler Morley, Jr., Alaska; Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Sr., Minnesota State; Matt Leitner, Sr., Minnesota State

Colton Parayko, Jr., Alaska; Shane Hanna, So., Michigan Tech

C.J. Motte, Sr., Ferris State

Jack Hittinger, Bemidji Pioneer; Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press; Tim O’Donnell, Fairbanks News-Miner; Jerry Taylor, ABC 10 UP sports director; Geof Morris, UAH Hockey.com; Michael Napier, UAH Hockey.com; Drew Evans, BGSU Hockey.com; Bruce Cech, Alaska Nanooks radio play-by-play; Chris Dilks, SBN College Hockey; Kevin Kurtt, Let’s Play Hockey Magazine; George Sipple, Detroit Free Press; Kurt Haider, Alaska-Anchorage radio play-by-play; Kevin Gordon, BGSU Hockey.com; Ryan Steig,Marquette Daily Mining Journal; Mike Sullivan, Minnesota State radio play by play; Greg Buckner, Big Rapids Pioneer; Scott Williams, Lakeland Sports & KBUN Bemidji; Ryan Satkowiak, Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune; Justin Bradford, Penalty Box Radio Nashville; John Wagner, Toledo Blade; Dave Danis, Northern Michigan radio play by play; Brian Halverson, Minnesota Hockey Magazine; Lee Benson, Lakeland Public TV sports director; David Tuttle, Alaska-Anchorage color commentator; Rob Roos, Sault Ste. Marie Evening News; Brandon Veale, The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton)

2014-15 Mankato Free Press WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Rk           Team (1st place votes)          Points
1.            Minnesota State (9)                       81
2.            Ferris State (1)                                  67
3.            Michigan Tech                                  64
4.            Bowling Green                                 57
5.            Alaska                                                  44
6.            Northern Michigan                         40
7.            Alaska Anchorage                           38
8.            Bemidji State                                    33
9.            Lake Superior State                        17
10.          Alabama Huntsville                           9

Predicted order of finish. Based on a 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale. Coaches could not vote for their own teams.

Preseason WCHA Player of the Year
C.J. Motte, Sr., G, Ferris State (4 votes)

Others receiving votes: Matt Leitner, Sr., F, Minnesota State (3); Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Sr., F, Minnesota State (1); Scott Allen, Sr., F, Alaska Anchorage (1), Colton Parayko, Jr. D, Alaska (1)

Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year
C.J. Franklin, F, Minnesota State and Brad McClure, F, Minnesota State (4 votes each)

Others receiving votes: Brett Beauvais, D, Bemidji State (1), Oliver Mantha, G, Alaska Anchorage (1)

Preseason All-WCHA Team

Tyler Morley, Jr., Alaska; Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Sr., Minnesota State; Matt Leitner, Sr., Minnesota State

Colton Parayko, Jr., Alaska; Zach Palmquist, Sr., Minnesota State

C.J. Motte, Sr., Ferris State

Others receiving votes: Forwards—Scott Allen, Sr., Alaska Anchorage; Blake Tatchell, Jr., Alaska Anchorage; Justin Buzzeo, Sr., Ferris State; David Johnstone, Sr., Michigan Tech; Tanner Kero, Sr., Michigan Tech; Alex Petan, Jr., Michigan Tech; Blake Pietila, Sr., Michigan Tech. Defensemen—Austin Coldwell, Sr., Alaska Anchorage; Matt Prapavessis, Sr., Bemidji State; Jason Binkley, Sr., Ferris State; Shane Hanna, So., Michigan Tech. Goaltenders—Cole Huggins, So., Minnesota State.

Grenier named women’s hockey captain

New BSU captain Kristine Grenier

Senior forward Kristine Grenier has been named the captain of the Bemidji State women’s hockey team for the 2014-15 season.

The Leon, Manitoba, native transferred from Mercyhurst last season. She tied for the team lead with eight goals last season, including three game-winners.

In addition to Grenier, senior Alex Citrowske and junior Steph Anderson were named alternate captains.

Citrowske, from Savage, played in 35 of 36 games in 2013 and tallied a career high 12 points (5g, 7a).

Anderson, a junior from North St. Paul, is also a transfer — she played for the Minnesota Gophers as a freshman. She scored five goals and three assists for BSU last season.

Seeing as how both BSU captains from last season graduated (defensemen Alex Ehlert and Allie Duellman shared co-captaincy duties), I think these three are the perfect choices.

Grenier seemed to take something of a leadership role on offense last season — playing in all 36 games for the Beavers.

The Beavers are set to start practice Saturday in advance of their first series Sept. 26-27 at Robert Morris. Last season the Colonials swept the Beavers in two games in Bemidji.

Women’s roster released; expanded replay criteria approved for 2014-15 season

Just a quick FYI: The BSU women’s team has posted its roster for the 2014-15 season already.

Looks like the only significant losses were the six graduating seniors. Also not on the roster this season is D Kenzie Menzak. Menzak, who transferred to BSU from Plattsburgh State, only appeared in two games last season.

As for the newcomers, there are seven freshman joining the program this year: D Riley Fawcett (Proctor); F Ciscely Nelson (Roseau); D Emma Terres (New Hope); D Alexis Joyce (Lakeville); F Summer Thibodeau (Maple Grove); D Alewx Bond (Barrie, Ont.) and G Hannah Paulson (Maple Grove).

That almost exactly replaces positions the Beavers needed with the departures they had last season (two forwards, a goalie and a bunch of defenseman).

Former head coach Steve Sertich knew what he needed to replace and it looks like he did a good job bringing in a bunch of instate talent. I don’t think new head coach Jim Scanlan will be bringing in anyone knew at this late date but there may be one or two uncommitted players out there that could walk on and add to the roster.

News NCAA rules approved

Nothing major, but the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a few changes Friday, especially to the way replays are handled in men’s and women’s college hockey.

Basically, there are a few more scenarios where officials can review goals:

-Refs can review a goal to see if it was scored before a penalty

-A scoring play can be reviewed if an offside or too many men penalty is missed to see when the puck was in the offensive zone

-The NCAA also clarified that video for replays can come from anywhere. Before the video was required to come from the TV broadcast.

The rest of the rules are somewhat dull (like the size of goal pegs and penalty shot and faceoff procedure).

Also, there’s an experimental rule for women’s hockey only which allows the puck to be played legally with a high stick.

Random July updates

Just realized it’s been almost a month since I last posted… I haven’t been great about maintaining this during the summer.

Since then, the NHL Draft came and went without any BSU players being selected, both new WCHA commissioners were in town and current BSU forward Brendan Harms was invited to participate in the Jets’s prospect development camp.

There hasn’t been a whole lot else happening in the world of BSU hockey, although the annual Galen Nagle Memorial Golf Tournament is set for Friday.  I don’t golf, but it’s a good time for me to get to hobknob with BSU hockey alumni and fans about what’s going on in the Beaver hockey universe. So look for a story on that on Saturday.

I’ve also been trying to keep track of some of the recent former Beavers and where they’ll be playing pro next season. Most recently I got word that former BSU defenseman Jake Areshenko had re-signed with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL for next season.

Another former Beaver, Brandon Marino, will be leaving the ECHL to play in Europe for the upcoming season. Marino led the ECHL in scoring last season with 88 points for the Fort Wyane Kmoets but this year he’ll be headed to Hungary’s Székesfehérvár (don’t ask me how to pronounce it), which plays in the Austrian league.

As for the AHL: I know Brad Hunt will be back with Oklahoma City next season. Radoslav Illo played for Norfolk after signing an ATO with the organization last season but I don’t know if he’ll be back there next season.

In the next couple days I plan on talking with new BSU head women’s coach Jim Scanlan now that he’s been on the job for a few weeks.

I’m also going to do a roster breakdown of both the men and the women’s teams (this provided the men’s roster is posted soon).

Also: BSU football reports back to camp Aug. 13. That’s still more than a month, but you should probably know. If you’ve read this far, you’ll have some inside knowledge.

WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Scanlan looks like a slam-dunk

I didn’t have time to update the blog more yesterday but a day after Bemidji State named Jim Scanlan the fifth women’s hockey coach in the program’s history, I have a little more time to talk about the hire.

In short: I kind of thought this was a no-brainer for BSU.

I know many in the college hockey world — at least, those outside of Bemidji — were thinking that former Minnesota State men’s coach and current Nebraska-Omaha assistant Troy Jutting was the clubhouse leader. That makes sense, considering he has name recognition and has friends on the BSU coaching staff.

By all accounts, Jutting would have been a great coach (and also a great quote).

But I don’t know if he was a great fit for the Beaver women’s team.

Yeah, he was a name that might have filled seats at the Sanford Center, but he’d never coached women or girls hockey at any level and his connections to BSU were negligible.

That’s why I think Scanlan was the best choice for the job.

Assistant coach Amber Fryklund — also a finalist for the job — also would have been a good choice, but it seems like Scanlan’s connections were very important.

As I mentioned in my story in today’s paper, Scanlan seemed to know everyone in the room at Tuesday’s press conference (which was fairly crowded for a press conference at 3 p.m. on a nice day outside).

And if he didn’t know them, he seemed to know of them.

Obviously knowing people isn’t everything in coaching — the actual, you know, coaching, is the primary concern, or it should be.

But don’t count out the fact that Scanlan is very familiar with Bemidji, and the Minnesota girls college hockey scene in general, when it comes time to recruit players to play for the Beavers.

BSU still has trouble getting the top, top recruits from the girls prep hockey ranks — it seems that Minnesota, Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota scoop them up pretty quickly.

Scanlan seems like the kind of guy who will be able to sell potential recruits on Bemidji right away, just because he’s so personable and genuine. He obviously has a passion for hockey, for BSU and for Bemidji and I think it shouldn’t be a problem for him to convince recruits that Bemidji is the place for them.

He talked about that during his press conference:

“We all know what a special place this is,” he said. “It’s our job to bring the girls up and show them what a place this can be. But obviously being successful certainly helps. When girls come here on a recruiting trip and see a team that believes in themselves and believes in each other, I think athletes want ton be part of something special. If we can create that culture here it’s going to be easier to bring top-flight girls here.”

The Beavers were much more competitive this past season (11-21-4 overall 8-17-3 WCHA) than they were in 2012-13 (when they finished 6-26-2 overall). But BSU hasn never finished above .500 in the 17-year history of the program; and the best finish was a 17-17-3 record in 2011-12. Even that year the team failed to finish in the top-half of the ultra-competitive WCHA.

I don’t know if it will be automatic, but the team has a foundation in place to at least finish above fifth place for the first time ever. The question is when it will happen. I think with Scanlan the answer will be “very soon.”

BSU names four finalists named for women’s hockey job

Can’t get our website to work at the moment but I thought I’d at least throw a little something up here this way.

BSU has named four finalists for the women’s hockey job left vacant by Steve Sertich’s retirement.

Two have BSU ties: current assistant coach Amber Fryklund and former BSU goaltender Jim Scanlan.

Also finalists are current Nebraska-Omaha assistant (and former longtime Minnesota State head coach) Troy Jutting and current MSU women’s assistant Brett Bruininks.

Of the four, none have Division I head coaching experience at the women’s level, although Jutting was head of the MSU men’s program for 12 years.

The four will apparently be on campus Wednesday for interviews. Not sure what the timeline is for announcing the person they hire but I reckon it’ll be soon, so stay tuned.

Gilling hired as head coach at Mount Royal

This story came across my news feed a little later but it’s good news for a (now former) Bemidji State assistant coach.

Bert Gilling, who has been an assistant for Bemidji State for 15 years, has been hired as head coach at Mount Royal University in Calgary, the schools announced Thursday. See the BSU press release here and the MRU press release here.

I’m working on my own story here (I’m planning on it anyway) but it’s a good move up for Gilling, who will get his first chance at coaching his own program in his career. He’s been at BSU for 15 years — under both current head coach Tom Serratore and former coach R.H. “Bob” Peters.

Mount Royal is an interesting case as far as Canadian universities go. The Cougars just recently made the move to the CIS in 2012. Before that they were in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. From what I can surmise it’s about the equivalent of making the jump from the Division II to Division I (the difference, of course, is Canadian colleges don’t offer athletic scholarships at all).

They’ve only been in CIS for two years and appeared to have steadily made progress. In 2012-13 they finished 7-21-0 but improved to 12-19-0 in 2013-14.

So it’s a good gig for Gilling, who finally has the reins to his own program.

I’m not sure what BSU’s plans are for hiring another assistant to replace Gilling but hopefully we’ll know more about that in the coming weeks (I assume it will happen after the new women’s coach is hired but I’m still not sure).

BSU releases 2014-15 men’s hockey schedule

Turns out if I’d have waited a day the Bemidji State hockey schedule would’ve been out already. Here’s the link to the full schedule via BSU. Here’s the press release. I’ll have the full schedule below.

As I had suspected, the Beavers do indeed take on St. Cloud State and Minnesota in nonconference action.

And if you look at the schedule, things are going to be very difficult right away for BSU.

The season opens with a home and home against UND followed by a week off then a series at Mariucci Arena. Then they’ll return home to face Alaska fairbanks before traveling to Minnesota State Mankato.

They’ll host St. Cloud State Nov. 28-29.

So to recap: The Beavers play three nonconference series and one nonconference trournament (North Star Cup).

Three of their nonconference foes (UND, Minnesota, St. Cloud) went to the NCAA tournament and obviously two went to the Frozen Four.

BSU also has at least four games against Minnesota State and two against Ferris.

They’ll also play either Mankato or Minnesota again in the championship game or the third place game of the North Star Cup.

In all that’s 13 games against 2013-14 tournament teams. That’s about the same as last season.

I’d guess the Beavers are once again going to have among the toughest schedules in the nation when all is said and done.

Anyway, the full schedule is below. You ready for October yet?

Oct. 10-11: at North Dakota, vs. NORTH DAKOTA (Home and Home)
Oct. 17-18: OPEN
Oct. 24-25: at Minnesota
Nov. 7-8: at Minnesota State*
Nov. 14-15: MICHIGAN TECH*
Nov. 21-22: at Bowling Green*
Nov. 28-29: ST. CLOUD STATE
Dec. 5-6: at Alaska Anchorage*
Jan. 17-18: at Lake Superior State*
Jan. 23: vs. Minnesota Duluth (North Star College Cup, St. Paul)
Jan. 24: vs. Mankato/Minnesota (North Star College Cup, St. Paul)
Jan. 30-31: BOWLING GREEN*
Feb. 6-7: at Michigan Tech (Winter Carnival)*
Feb. 13-14: at Northern Michigan*
Feb. 27-28: at Ferris State*
March 13-15: WCHA first round
March 20-21: WCHA Final Five (St. Paul)
*denotes WCHA conference game

Piecing together the 2014-15 schedule

Apologies for the lack of updates but there hasn’t been much news on the college hockey front, especially related to Bemidji State.

Yes, the WCHA hired both a men’s commissioner and a women’s commissioner but there hasn’t been much news specifically related to the Beavers.

The BSU women have yet to announce a new head coach; and neither team has released their schedule yet.

Despite not having a full official schedule a few WCHA (and nonconference) teams have put out their 2014-15 scheduled so I can, at least somewhat confidently, at least give a visual on what part of BSU’s schedule will look like next season.

Five of the 10 WCHA schools have released their schedules (Fairbanks, Anchorage, Ferris, Tech and Huntsville) as has one nonconference opponent (Duluth). North Dakota hasn’t released theirs officially yet (save nonconference) but Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported that BSU and North Dakota will play a home and home to kick off the season next year.

Anyway, here’s all we know:

Oct. 10-11: at North Dakota, vs. NORTH DAKOTA (Home and Home)
Oct. 17-18: ???
Oct. 24-25: ???
Nov. 7-8: ???
Nov. 14-15: MICHIGAN TECH*
Nov. 21-22: ???
Nov. 28-29: ???
Dec. 5-6: at Alaska Anchorage*
Dec. 12-13: ??
Dec. 19-20: ??
Dec. 26-27: Guessing this will be Christmas Break.
Jan. 2-3: ??
Jan. 17-18: ??
Jan. 23: vs. Minnesota Duluth (North Star College Cup, St. Paul)
Jan. 24: vs. Mankato/Minnesota (North Star College Cup, St. Paul)
Jan. 30-31: ??
Feb. 6-7: at Michigan Tech (Winter Carnival)*
Feb. 13-14: ??
Feb. 27-28: at Ferris State*

I’m fairly certain the Beavers will also be traveling to play the Gophers again this year and hosting St. Cloud State but I haven’t confirmed either of those series and don’t know exactly when they’re going to play.

As for the series that haven’t been announced, we know they’ll play Mankato four times and will also play both Northern Michigan and Bowling Green four times (since they only saw those teams for a single series each last season).  I believe they will also face Lake Superior just twice this season, i.e., one road series.

I’m pretty sure that gets the Beavers to 36, which is the mac number of games allowed with the one Alaska trip (I think they’d get 38 games if they made two Alaska trips).

Essentially it looks like exactly the same schedule in terms of opponents this season, only minus Miami and plus Duluth in the first round of the North Star Cup. It would have been nice to see some different teams in the mix for once (maybe somebody from the East Coast) but in all it once again looks like the Beavers have one of the nation’s tougher schedules.

The end has no end: Thoughts on Bemidji State’s season

BSU actually ended its season two weeks ago at Ferris State but I’ve been neglecting the blog. And, as we know, a college hockey writer’s job never ends, even when the season does. I just needed a few days to process the end of BSU’s season.

Anyway, I plan on having a few more thoughts in the paper later this week — I just had a good talk with head coach Tom Serratore recapping the season and sort of looking forward to next — but I thought with the NCAA tournament starting up this weekend I’d get a few things up here before everyone forgets about BSU for a while (if they haven’t already).

-The Beavers finished with a 10-21-7 record. Not great, but they nearly doubled their win total from 2012-13 (when they were 6-22-8). All 10 wins this season came in WCHA play. Last season the Beavers got one win from current WCHA foe Lake Superior State, which was in the CCHA at the time.

-One thing to note: The Beavers were 2-12-2 against NCAA tournament teams.

That doesn’t look great but it also points to just how tough BSU’s schedule was. Nearly half of schedule (16 out of 38 games) made the tournament.

That’s two conference teams (Ferris State and Minnesota State) as well as three out of BSU’s four nonconference opponents (Minnesota, St. Cloud State and North Dakota… Miami didn’t make the tournament despite being a preseason No. 1 but nearly won the NCHC tournament).

-BSU’s scoring went up this season.

Last year the Beavers averaged 2.1 goals per game. This year that number went up slightly, to 2.6. Opponents goals-per-game numbers, however, stayed exactly the same — 3.1 goals a game.

I think this has something to do with the fact that the Beavers found more scoring from underclassmen — something it lacked a season ago.

Brance Orban was the only Beaver who had more than 20 points in 2012-12 — 23 points, with just nine goals.

This year four Beavers had 20-plus points. Three were underclassmen. That’s two sophomores (Cory Ward and Markus Gerbrandt) and a freshman (Brendan Harms) along with junior Matt Prapavessis.

That’s an encouraging number for BSU. Last year they lost five of their 10 double-digit scorers to graduation. This season BSU also had 10 guys in double-digits but only two — Radoslav Illo and Jeff Jubinville — are seniors. (This assuming nobody else on the team leaves early, which I can’t forsee.)

-The BSU penalty kill finished the regular season ranked No. 8 in the country. It was generally outstanding, save a few hiccups near the end of the season (against Mankato and Bowling Green).

-The power play, on the other hand, was a mess in the last quarter of the season. The Beavers scored just one power play goal in the last 10 games (against Alabama-Huntsville). And they had their chances — 35 of them — in their last 10 games. For those scoring at home that’s 2 percent.

That will have to improve, especially after it was so good early in the season. Luckily, power play stalwarts Prapavessis, Ward, Gerbrandt and Ruslan Pedan should be back. Hopefully they can get the kinks out.

I’ll have more in the paper later this week, I just thougt I’d run down those stats for you before the NCAA Tournament started.

-Also, for what it’s worth, I picked Minnesota, Ferris, Union and Boston College for the Frozen Four. That Ferris pick may be wishful thinking, since I think the Midwest Region is the toughest in the tournament with Ferris, Colgate, North Dakota and Wisconsin. But it would be cool to see the Bulldogs go back to the Frozen Four for the second time in three years.

Plus, I want to see them take on the Gophers. Colgate prevented that matchup from happening earlier in the season by beating the Gophers in a shootout during the Mariucci Classic, so it would be fun to see if the Bulldogs can hold their own against the top team in the nation.

That said, Colgate is no pushover — they beat Ferris two out of the three times they played in the regular season.

As for Mankato, they got a tough draw, taking on UMass-Lowell in the first round in Lowell’s backyard (Worcester, Mass.). I’m not sure I can see them getting out of the first round but even if they do, BC and Johhny Gaudreau will likely be waiting for them in the regional finals.

(However, should both Ferris and Mankato win and make the Frozen Four, it would be a nice gesture to the rest of those in college hockey who call the WCHA “dead,” so that would be really fun to watch.)