Just as Nebraska-Omaha made a splash in its WCHA debut by sweeping Minnesota at Mariucci Arena, Bemidji State is still looking for its first WCHA victory in team history and it’s not going to be easy.
Call it Baptism by fire. The Beavers open league play against three of the WCHA top teams in North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State.
The Fighting Sioux swept the Beavers with a pair of 5-2 wins to spoil BSU’s christening of the Bemidji Regional Events Center. The Beavers return to the BREC Oct. 29 against UMD when they will recognize Sanford Health’s partnership with the City of Bemidji, according to the Bemidji Pioneer.
The Bemidji City Council voted 7-0 to rename the building the Sanford Center although BSU Media Relations Director Brad Folkestad hasn’t heard of an exact date for the name change.
Despite the meat grinder schedule to start, it’s still a nice situation for BSU.
With the trip to the 2009 Frozen Four, the Beavers’ entrance into the WCHA and the new arena, BSU is more relevant now than it has ever been in 12 seasons at the Division I level. Hopefully it will help the Beavers pull even in recruiting with the other heavyweights that draw the top prospects from the Upper Midwest.
The Beavers have a rich tradition that has won at every level of college hockey going back five decades. BSU has seven NAIA titles (1968-80), a championship as a Division III program(1986) and five in Division II (1984-97) and there’s no reason the success will end at the D-I level.
On Tuesday, BSU coach Tom Serratore was eager to talk about breaking in the BREC, saying it was an “exciting weekend to showcase our arena to the alumni and the region” but he also talked about what makes UND so tough.
“They are experienced and can play any style of hockey you want them to play,” Serratore said. “You want them to skate up and down, they can skate. If they want to play physical, they can play physical so they’re very versatile from that standpoint.
“They also have tremendous depth and balance at all positions. They have defensemen who could be third- or fourth-line guys on a lot of teams in college hockey.”
Matt Frattin led the Sioux with four goals and an assist over the weekend.
SCSU also had trouble in nonconference play at home this weekend.
Theresa Spisak spoke for most WCHA followers, surprised by SCSU’s performance against Miami this weekend. More disappointing than the rows of empty seats in the National Hockey Center was the Huskies’ special teams play in Friday’s 6-3 loss to the No. 4 RedHawks.
SCSU took six penalties and Miami made good on three. Down 4-1, the Huskies had a chance to get back into the game with a 5-on-3 advantage early in the third period. Instead, Miami killed off the first penalty and Reily Smith scored on a breakaway shorthanded. Miami’s last goal came with four skaters per side.
From the NHC’s second row in front of the SCSU zone for two periods, it was easy to diagnose the defense as the Huskies’ Achilles’ heel. They miss the experience Garrett Raboin’s and Craig Gaudet brought to the blue line and defenseman Sam Zabkowicz has played just one game.
SCSU allowed the Redhawks to pass all over inside the attack zone Friday night while Miami players were left alone in front of Lee. Neutral zone turnovers and sloppy play in the offensive zone also led to Miami scoring chances on the other end (SCSU did add two power play goals late in the third period).
The Huskies were a little more stingy in Saturday’s 1-1 tie and it’s still early, but Friday was the second time SCSU allowed six goals this season.
The actual number of fans that walked through the turnstiles was far less than the announced attendance of 5,971 even though Miami is arguably the toughest nonconference opponent SCSU has ever faced in the NHC.
The WCHA went 4-5-1 across the board against non-league opponents over the weekend.