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Bemidji State treks north for Seawolves series

BEMIDJI -- Every year the Bemidji State men’s hockey team makes at least one 2,500-mile trip to America’s 49th state. Luckily for the Beavers, this year’s trip comes early in the season as they take on Alaska Anchorage in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series this weekend.

Coming off a series split at Northern Michigan that culminated with Aaron Miller’s buzzer-beating and game-winning goal Saturday, BSU finds itself on the back end of a five-game road swing.

“I’d rather have the Alaska trip where it didn’t but up against another road trip to be honest with you,” said head coach Tom Serratore. “But you can’t sit there and you can’t request everything you want in the schedule…. It’s also a fun trip, too. The guys enjoy it.”

Though the long travel can be a grind, Miller said he enjoys the team bonding that trips to Alaska provide.

“I’ve been up in Alaska a few times. I love it every time I go,” said the sophomore forward. “I’ve never been to Anchorage though, and I know it’s completely different from Fairbanks but it’s still Alaska. … We have a lot of time with each other. You know, you’re not really talking to anybody else but the guys, so it really helps bonding.”

Like last week, the Beavers (2-1-1, 1-1-0 WCHA) will be playing on an Olympic-size rink at Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena. With a visit to St. Cloud State in two weeks, BSU is in the middle of a stretch where they’ll play six of eight games on the larger ice sheets.

The surface plays into the Seawolves’ hands, said Serratore.

“They pressure the puck, they’re aggressive, they play with good pace,” he said. “I just like what they’re doing. They’re very difficult to play against. They’re playing a style that you can tell they’re comfortable with. They’re enjoying themselves. And again, on big ice I think with their speed they’re going to be very difficult. I’m just glad last weekend we played on big ice, so at least we’re a little used to it right now.”

The Seawolves have gone 1-3-0 overall in first-year head coach Matt Curley’s first four games, including a two-loss weekend against Ferris State to start league play. However, the team came back from a stinging 10-2 loss at Colorado College on opening night to rebound with a 4-3 win one night later.

For the Beavers, their goaltenders continue to shine. Hank Johnson and Zach Driscoll each surrendered only one goal apiece in starts last weekend.

There is one area BSU will seek improvement at this early stage in the season -- the power play. While the penalty kill is firing at 94 percent (15/16), the Beavers’ power-play unit has only converted on one of 10 chances through four games.

Patience is key this early in the year, said Serratore, but he wants to see some progress.

“I just think right now our puck movement is too slow,” Serratore said. “We can’t continue on and get one power-play goal every four games because that’s not going to cut it. You’re putting a lot of pressure on your penalty kill, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your goaltending when you’re power play is not getting it done. We’ve got to continue to work on that.”

At a glance

Who: BSU at Alaska Anchorage

Where: Anchorage, Alaska

When: 10:07 p.m. today; 7:07 p.m. Saturday

Radio: Beaver Radio Network/103.7 FM


Austin Monteith

Austin Monteith is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is an Illinois native and a Butler University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @amonteith92.

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