WEEKEND RECAP: Minnesota is good, but Bemidji State proved itself

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.

Poll position

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.

1. Minnesota
2. Union
3. Colgate
4. North Dakota
5. Boston College
6. St. Cloud State
7. UMass-Lowell
8. Minnesota State
9. Boston University
10. Providence
11. Cornell
12. Merrimack
13. Ferris State
14. Michigan Tech
15. Alaska
16. Miami
17. Vermont
18. Michigan
19. Minnesota-Duluth
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.

SEASON OPENER: Reading, lines, etc. for BSU/North Dakota

About to leave for Grand Forks, but before I get on U.S. Highway 2, some reading for you today.

Bemidji State is looking fort a fast start against No. 2 UND tonight. Also: Michael Bitzer, not Andrew Walsh, will be starting in goal tonight for Beavers. Maybe a bit of a shock but I had guessed Bitz, a freshman, would start one of the two. The Moorhead Spud will be thrown right into the fire for the first one, I guess.

Here’s my more general season preview, in which the general theme is the Beavers need to score.

Also interesting: The Grand Forks Herald’s Brad Schlossman went long on UND’s Dave Hakstol. A nice long feature on the coach. Worth the read.

Here’s some more notes on the game from Brad’s blog.

Also: I made my debut as a columnist on USCHO last night. Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press and I made our predictions for this week’s slate of games, which you can find here.

We also previewed the WCHA season. I wrote about Bemidji State (basically similar to what I wrote in the paper) but also about Alabama-Huntsville, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan. Read all those, if you wish, all compiled here.

Lastly, here’s Shane’s blog with his roundup of WCHA reading material. I used to do this but he did it before I did and I’m lazy and about to leave for Grand Forks so I’ll link to his today.

Anyway, BSU’s lines are on the bottom (note the Fitzgerald line!), and I’ll post UND’s when I get to the Ralph later tonight. I gotta go, catch you in Graand Forks!

BEMIDJI STATE LINES
FORWARDS
23 Markus Gerbrandt-11 Nate Arentz-18 Brendan Harms
9 Phillip Marinaccio-13 Cory Ward-8 John Parker
17 Leo Fitzgerald-21 Gerry Fitzgerald-26 Myles Fitzgerald
22 Charlie O’Connor-27 Mitch Cain-19 Phil Brewer
DEFENSE
28 Brett Beauvais-4 Sam Windle
20 Sam Rendle-7 Matt Prapavessis
25 Ruslan Pedan-12 Graeme McCormack
GOALTENDERS
1 Michael Bitzer
30 Andrew Walsh

NORTH DAKOTA LINES

21 Brendan O’Donnell–16 Mark MacMillan–15 Michael Parks
28 Stephane Pattyn–13 Connor Gaarder–7 Wade Murphy
9 Drake Caggiula–27 Luke Johnson–8 Nick Schmaltz
29 Bryn Chyzyk–26 Coltyn Sanderson–14 Austin Poganski

6 Paul LaDue–24 Jordan Schmaltz
5 Nick Mattson–2 Troy Stecher
20 Gage Ausmus–4 Keaton Thompson

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson
30 Matt Hrynkiw

 

They Want My Poll: Media poll, USCHO poll picks from yours truly

Would you like me to show you my soul, I mean, poll?

I apologize for that terrible pun in the title but it gives me the bad excuse to post a Spoon song in this post. So what that video (the album is called “They Want My Soul”… I know, just bear with me and like my favorite band, OK?) and follow me afterwards for my media poll picks (as well as my USCHO poll pick… I’m a voter this season).

Continue reading

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

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

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

Goaltender
C.J. Motte, Sr., Ferris State

Participants
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

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

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

Goaltender
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).