Close Is Not Enough For Bemidji State
by Joshua Seguin/CHN Writer
HANOVER, N.H. Bemidji State has struggled this season to put games together and this weekend provided two perfect examples. On Sunday night in the first round of the Ledyard Bank Classic, Bemidji went up 2-0 on Massachusetts, the eventual tournament champion, but that lead didn’t last out of the second period. UMass came roaring back to score three goals to take a 3-2 lead.
Putting full games together is one of the toughest skills in hockey and this is exactly what Bemidji has found out on many occasions this season.
“We started out really hot against UMass and put up a two-goal lead,” said Bemidji captain Ben Kinne. “They came right back at us and it kind of deflated us a bit. That’s how hockey goes, you can’t take a period off or you will suffer.”
Bemidji lost both games at the Ledyard Bank Classic, but it put up a fight in both games, losing by one goal both nights. On Monday night, the Beavers gave New Hampshire everything it could handle, taking the second-ranked Pairwise team to overtime. In that game, they struggled for much of first two periods, only to score a tying goal midway through the third to send the game to overtime.
“I thought that we were in a good spot down 2-1 going into the third period against a team like UNH in their own backyard,” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. “I would take that any day of the week and I thought our guys responded well and we brought the game into overtime.”
The effort against New Hampshire was hardly shocking, mainly because the Beavers have beaten some good teams this season. Before the break, Bemidji defeated highly-touted Denver. Not only did they defeat Denver, but also tied them the night before to go undefeated on the weekend. Earlier in the season Bemidji also had a victory against a good Nebraska-Omaha team. Playing good teams on a weekly basis is tough, but important.
“A game against UNH is just like an NCAA tournament game because if you think about it UNH will more than likely be in the tournament,” said Kinne. “As a hockey player, we need to think about it this way because one game and you’re done. Having that mindset every night is important.”
“UNH and Denver are two totally different teams,” said Serratore. “We played a game tonight like we had to against UNH. Playing a team like UNH is very difficult because they stretch so much with their forwards and they are crafty. At the end of the night we are very happy with our effort. It was just not the result we may have wanted.”
Despite being territorially dominated by New Hampshire, the Beavers never broke down and had few defensive lapses. They were always in the lanes and when tested goaltender Andrew Walsh came up huge.
“We had a good couple of weeks before the Christmas break," said defenseman Jake Areshenko. “We have had some good spurts of good play but I think we can take those positives forward. We take pride at Bemidji in our defensive play.”
One thing that stood out throughout the weekend was its ability to block shots. Coming into the weekend Bemidji had 275 blocks on the season, which they only added to on this weekend. Blocking key opportunities is something that good teams do. On the weekend they added 21 blocks, many of which were great opportunities for their opponent. Against New Hampshire the Beavers blocked nine UNH grade-A opportunities.
Defense is what Bemidji prides itself on, but in the end teams need to score the big goal to be successful. They have played in 11 games that have been decided by a goal or less, including six overtime games. But as is the case in hockey, the luck doesn’t always fall. The Beavers are 0-3-3 in overtime on the season and 3-5-3 in games decided by a goal or less. There are no moral victories in hockey, but the results prove that with a little puck luck Bemidji could have a better record.
“It doesn’t matter how we lost, because we aren’t in for moral victories,” said Serratore.
Going forward, the road is never easy for a team playing in the WCHA. Before re-entering conference play in two weeks, Bemidji will get 11-5-2 Western Michigan at home for a two-game set. As a barometer these games will be huge.
“It is just like 2012 for us,” said Areshenko. “Those teams are going to be better, we will be better and the intensity will be up. We need to match that intensity and come out ready to play every night."