With offense kicking into high gear for Bemidji State, Beavers forwards proving to be ‘extremely skilled’ bunch

Bemidji State captain Adam Brady says ‘the better we are defensively, we are going to defend less and be in their end more’ (photo: BSU Photo Services).

A high-octane offense hasn’t traditionally been Bemidji State’s calling card.

There have, of course, been Beaver teams that have scored in bunches — the 2009-10 team that featured the likes of NHLers Brad Hunt and Matt Read comes to mind right away.

But generally, BSU teams have, rightly or wrongly, been stereotyped as overly defensive.

That’s why someone looking at the national stats this season might be surprised. The Beavers are currently one of the highest-scoring teams in the country, netting 65 goals through 20 games so far this season.

Anyone surprised by this hasn’t been paying attention.

“We’ve got decent scoring depth, and statistically, we’ve been playing well,” BSU coach Tom Serratore said Monday. “Defensively, we’re a top-10 team in the country. Penalty kill, we’re No. 1. Power play, we’re at about 20 percent. Scoring, we’re at three and a half goals per game. We have a young team, but we feel we have a really talented team. We’re not as fast as we used to be but we’re also not as small as we used to be either.”

The Beavers are No. 13 nationally and No. 3 in the WCHA in terms of scoring offense — only Minnesota State and Northern Michigan have scored more goals (and MSU has had two more games to score said goals).

A big part of that offense prowess has been thanks to Adam Brady, Aaron Miller and their respective lines.

Brady, a senior captain, has 10 goals and eight assists while Miller, a junior, leads the team in scoring with 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists). They anchor BSU’s main two scoring lines — Brady on the left wing and Miller on the right.

“They’re upperclassmen, and we’ve always banked on our upperclassmen,” Serratore said of his team’s scoring leaders. “Those are two guys who have really emerged as good hockey players. They both can shoot, they both have tremendous hockey sense, and their work ethic is off the charts.”

Brady scored eight goals in both his sophomore and junior seasons for BSU but already has 10 as a senior. And this year he’s become BSU’s lethal weapon on the power play — six of his 10 scores have come on the man advantage.

“I think our forward group is extremely skilled, and we have a lot of defensemen getting in the mix and scoring too,” Brady said. “I think for us, our defensive responsibilities are correlating to our offensive chances, and ultimately goals. I think the better we are defensively, we are going to defend less and be in their end more.”

In the past weekend’s series against Ferris State — a Bemidji State sweep — that defense-to-offense mentality was evident. In Friday’s game the Beavers severely limited the Bulldogs to just 15 shots on goal — including four in the third period — while at the same time netting five in a 5-2 win. On Saturday, it was three power-play goals — including two by Brady — that allowed the Beavers to take a lead and defend for a 4-1 win.

Perhaps what has stood out most about the Beavers is that nobody has eye-popping video game numbers. Sophomore forward Owen Sillinger is the third-highest scorer on the team with 13 points (seven goals, eight assists) while freshman defenseman Elias Rosen has 13 points (two goals, eight assists).

Mostly, it’s been different players contributing a few goals here or a few assists there. Nine different players have two or fewer goals and in all 17 players have scored at least once for BSU.

“We have four lines of forwards that can all contribute and put pucks in,” Brady said. “A lot of it falls on my linemates. I’ve played with a few different guys all year, but they’ve all done an awesome job and made it easy for me.”

The Beavers are currently in second place in the league standings — ahead of a few teams that were picked to finish there in the preseason. The question now is if they can keep up their scoring — and winning — ways as they enter a brutal last two months of the regular season. The schedulemakers didn’t do Bemidji State many favors: The Beavers still have four more games with Minnesota State, two each with Northern Michigan, Bowling Green and Michigan Tech and long trips to Alabama and Alaska.

“Our schedule’s a bear right now,” Serratore said. “We’ve got the heavyweights of our league the second half of our year. We’ve got the toughest schedule in the league as a longshot. The good part is, we have put ourselves in pretty good position right now.”

Big sweep for NMU

Coming into 2020, Northern Michigan had been reeling.

The Wildcats had lost five of their last eight games and slipped to sixth in the league standings.

That made last weekend’s series at Bowling Green — usually a great, entertaining pair of games — even bigger.

Both teams desperately needed the points, but in the end it was the Wildcats that got all six, sweeping BGSU with a 5-2 win on Friday followed up by a 4-3 overtime barnburner on Saturday.

In Saturday’s game, the Wildcats were down 3-1 in the third period but scored two extra-attacker goals (from Joseph Nardi and Grant Loven) to tie it up in the last 90 seconds. Then Darien Craighead scored the game-winner with less than a minute to go in overtime.

“Proud of how hard we continued to play right to the end,” NMU coach Grant Potulny told FloHockey. “It is one of the biggest road sweeps we have had.”

The sweep vaulted the Wildcats from sixth place to third in the standings while the Falcons extended their losing streak to four games and now find themselves in sixth.

Tech salvages split, moves up in Pairwise

Michigan Tech came off their Great Lakes Invitational win with a solid split at Arizona State.

The Huskies lost to the Sun Devils 4-3 on Friday. MTU scored three times in the third period but couldn’t quite overcome the early 3-0 deficit.

That momentum, however, paid off in Saturday’s game, as the Huskies were able to get a 3-2 win in a back-and-forth game thanks to Logan Pietila’s game winner with 2:05 to go in the game.

“Our guys find their team unity in these third-period situations,” Huskies coach Joe Shahawn told the Daily Mining Gazette. “We seem to come together. It’s a great quality for this team to have coming back from third-period deficits.”

The Huskies, currently third in the WCHA, are now No. 15 in the PairWise.