Read, Beavers Work Hard to Join the Elite
by Matthew Ruffini /CHN Reporter
For the Bemidji State hockey program and its fans, the success of last season, the start of this season and what the future might hold has brought on quite a bit of excitement.
Last season the Beavers won the CHA conference championship and then stunned the nation by knocking off Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Beavers eventually lost in the Frozen Four semifinal game but they were able to carry the momentum into this season.
The Beavers are currently 13-2-1 and are ranked fourth in the nation — more importantly, No. 1 in the Pairwise. Next season the Beavers will move into their brand new arena and join the WCHA, arguably the best conference in college hockey.
Bemidji State's success recently can be attributed to many factors, but ranking near the top is the emergence of Matt Read as a top talent and leader.
Read, now in his junior year, has led by example on and off the ice and Serratore believes that his assistant captain has rubbed off on the rest of the team.
“He is extremely professional in everything he does; nobody works harder than Matt in the weight room or in the classroom," Serratore said. "He is determined to play in the NHL some day and his work ethic carries over to others. Our guys see our best player working as hard as he does and the rest of the team follows.”
Read also carries his hard work and professionalism from the ice to his off-ice activities as well, which is a major reason that Serratore feels he will be successful at whatever he does.
“He is a first-class person and he is very goal orientated," Serratore said. "He has a lot of success and he enjoys sharing success with others.”
There has been plenty of success to go around so far for Read and the rest of the team, as the Beavers have taken a commanding lead in the CHA and have cracked the top five in the rankings. Read believes that this team has learned from last year’s roller coaster season. Once again, pointing out the leadership of this team is one of the main reasons they have been so successful.
“Our team went through a lot of ups and downs last year and we battled a lot of adversity," Read said. "We learned how to win and this year our upperclassmen are teaching are underclassmen the same thing and it has helped us be successful.”
Bemidji State's record so far is not a mirage. The Beavers are 8-0 in the CHA, but have done very well outside the conference as well. The Beavers started with a season-opening sweep of Air Force and went on a roll from there. Minnesota defeated Bemidji in mid-November to give the Beavers their first loss, however, Serratore’s group rebounded the next night and beat up the Gophers, 6-2. A couple of weeks later they added to their resume with a 3-2 win over No. 1-ranked Miami.
“Beating Minnesota and Miami gives us confidence and is a stepping stone to help us reach our goals," Read said. "It proves to ourselves and everyone else that we belong.”
The offensive production that the Beavers have received from Read is one of the many reasons that teams don’t look forward to facing Bemidji State. Read is currently fifth in the nation in scoring with 11 goals and 12 assists. However, Read is not the type to take credit for all of his success.
“I’m very fortunate to play on the power play and I have two great linemates," Read said. "I benefit a lot from their hard work.”
What makes the Beavers such a hard team to play against is their balanced offensive attack. They have eight players with 10 or more points, including defenseman Brad Hunt with 16. Goalie Dan Bakala is also having a stellar season — in 12 games Bakala is 10-1-1 with a 1.73 GAA.
Serratore knows it’s a long season and that success early in the year doesn’t always translate into winning championships at the end. However, with leadership coming from players like Read and the other captains, there is no reason this team shouldn’t be able to play at a high level for the remainder of the season.
“Our guys do a great job of keeping themselves focused and it helps when you have great leadership coming from your captains," Serratore said. "Our players know we have a small margin for error and that we could easily have five or six losses by now. Right now we are having success but our players make sure they don’t read too much into their press clippings.”
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