The rest of the CHA will wait for the reindeer, but Bemidji State may have already received the main item on its Christmas list: its offense.
Bemidji’s preseason letter to Santa was probably simple — a key win here or there to put the Beavers in the NCAA tournament. After spending October and November topping the three-goal mark only twice, coach Tom Serratore had some trepidation about scoring enough to gain that ultimate success.
After dismantling Wayne State, those concerns have to be allayed. In fact, averaging four goals per game, BSU now has the best offense in the conference.
Bemidji spent the previous weekend in practice dissecting the Warriors defensive style of hockey. Serratore likened his game planning to a football team’s preparation, and Vince Lombardi himself could not have drawn up better results.
If the scoreboard did not reveal their success (3-2, 5-2 wins), the shot chart did. Bemidji outshot WSU 103-25 over the two-game series in Minnesota. For a little perspective, on Saturday, the Beavers had 22 shots in the first period alone.
“They came at us like gangbusters,” said Wayne State coach Bill Wilkinson. “They were very quick and fast and gave our young freshmen all they could handle.”
Sometimes a team accumulates shots without quality, but the Beavers gave Warrior goaltender Matt Kelly a brutal workout. Kelly stood tall, however, and was the only real bright spot of the weekend for Wayne State.
“They took pretty much every type of shot there was against us,” Wilkinson said. “If it wasn’t for Kelly it might have been 15-2. We didn’t cover too many people and weren’t physical enough.”
One player who found himself open Saturday night was Beaver junior forward Brendan Cook. He notched a place in the team’s record books with his first career hat trick — the first for the program at the Division I level.
If BSU got every type of shot on Kelley, Cook scored every type of goal. He notched one even strength, on the power play, and one while shorthanded. This was the type of talented performance expected from the preseason CHA favorites, who, at 4-0 in conference, are still off to their best divisional start in D-I program history.
“Bemidji is as good a team as we’ve faced all year long,” Wilkinson said. “They beat Duluth and have good veteran players.”
Bemidji began its offensive revival the previous weekend with a 7-2 win at Connecticut to wrap up a four-game set in the Constitution State. The Beavers continued it Thursday night against Alabama-Huntsville and will have one more shot at the Chargers Saturday afternoon.
Wilkinson, on the other hand, has his own scoring problems to palliate. Wayne State, at 2.67 goals per game, is in real trouble. Early hotshots like Derek MacKay have cooled and the team has not succeeded in establishing the explosive counterpunch it had the last couple of years — yet.
“We are simply not getting a lot of goals right now,” Wilkinson said. “Too many mistakes are happening on the ice, too many breakdowns … We’re still a young team and inconsistent.”
Wayne State has a chance to get on track this weekend against equally-listless American International. But if that doesn’t work, there’s always Santa.
Didn’t Want to Mention This, But…
Air Force lost to the US Under-18 team. Even if teams do not take seriously the midseason exhibition, the Falcons should have been able to beat a team of potential recruits. Chad Kolarik, Michigan recruit and brother of Harvard’s Tyler Kolarik, netted two for the junior varsity.
All I Want for Christmas
As the CHA enters the holiday season, here’s a look at some items on my Christmas wish list:
That is all for this week. We are going on a Christmas column break at USCHO, but if any important news breaks, we will be all over it. Keep an eye out for our Christmas tournament preview.
May you and yours have a very blessed holiday season.