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Beavers showing power

When Bemidji State decided to move its men's hockey program to the Division I level in 1999, coach Tom Serratore said the ultimate goal was to eventually land in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

When Bemidji State decided to move its men's hockey program to the Division I level in 1999, coach Tom Serratore said the ultimate goal was to eventually land in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

That prospect might be scary for some teams in the league.

Bemidji State is in the midst of another successful season and WCHA opponents have been no problem for the Beavers, who host UND at 7:35 tonight.

The Sioux will be Bemidji State's fifth and final WCHA opponent of the season. The Beavers already have swept Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State-Mankato (both for the second year in a row) and they split at Colorado College.

"We obviously know we're very competitive," said Serratore, whose team is 9-6 against the WCHA in the past two seasons. "We have a good product and we're proud of what we have accomplished. Right now, there's a moratorium on expansion in the WCHA, so that has to be lifted. But that's our long-term plan."

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Serratore said playing a nonconference schedule against WCHA teams is beneficial for everyone involved. First off, the Beavers are located in the same state as four league teams and are even closer to UND.

Plus, opponents traveling to the John S. Glas Fieldhouse get to experience a rowdy atmosphere - something that will definitely be in store for the Sioux tonight.

"Bar none, this is our biggest game of the year," Serratore said. "The game is sold out. It's going to be a pretty electric and hostile atmosphere with people standing on top of you. I think it benefits teams coming in to play us because it's not an easy place to play."

Scary prospects

Serratore has watched film on the Sioux this week. He said, "They're a team that scares the heck out of me. They are the best team we will face this year. I have no problem saying that. We've played Colorado College, but to me, there's no question UND is going to be (BSU's toughest opponent)."

He said UND's power play particularly scares him.

"It really looks like they are coming into their own," Serratore said.

Although UND has an 11-1-1 all-time record against the Beavers, Sioux coach Dave Hakstol said he hasn't had to keep his players from overlooking Bemidji State.

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"We haven't thought anything - even for a second - other than we're going into a very tough building against a very good team," Hakstol said. "They prove that they're a very good team year in and year out. And they're proving it again this year."

Erickson still out

Bemidji State will play without former Roseau (Minn.) High School player Luke Erickson, who has missed the past 10 games with an ankle injury. Serratore said he hopes to have the senior forward back in February.

Erickson became Bemidji State's all-time leading Division I scorer on Dec. 2, when he scored a pair of goals against Wayne State. The next practice, Erickson suffered the injury.

"He's our best player, so it's tough to have him out of the lineup," Serratore said. "But at the same time, we've had some guys step up and find themselves. We're 7-3 since he's been gone."

Despite missing about half of the games this season, Erickson still is Bemidji State's top goal scorer with 10.

Notes and quotes

-- UND will play without assistant captain Rylan Kaip tonight. Kaip was given a game disqualification for fighting Alaska-Anchorage's Chad Anderson last Saturday, meaning he has to serve a one-game suspension. Freshman forward Michael Forney is expected to be in the lineup for Kaip.

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-- Serratore on Sioux fans: "We really appreciate the respect that the North Dakota fans and North Dakota community has for us. I really mean that. That's important to us. I really admire that program."

-- Bemidji State has made the NCAA tournament the last two seasons. Both times, the Beavers were knocked out by the eventual champion.

-- During the last seven games, UND has killed 35 of the last 38 opponent power plays - a conversion rate of 92.1 percent.

Reach Schlossman at 780-1129, (800) 477-6572 ext. 129 or bschlossman@gfherald.com . Read his hockey blog at areavoices.com/undhockey .

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