The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team returns to Sanford Center this weekend for its final home series of the 2013-14 regular season. The Beavers host long-time rival University of Alabama-Huntsville in a two-game Western Collegiate Hockey Association series with a shot at hosting a first round playoff series on the line. Friday's special Native Nations series opener is slated for a 7:37 p.m. start with Saturday's senior day opening face off scheduled for 7:07 p.m.
With just four games remaining in the 2013-14 regular season, the WCHA standings are still in flux. Only three seeds have been solidified; Ferris State University and Minnesota State University will finish first and second and Alabama-Huntsville will finish 10th. That leaves seeds three through nine up for grabs. Two of the remaining teams will host a playoff series, four teams will hit the road for the first round and the season will end for the ninth seed.
BSU comes into the final home weekend after splitting a series with No. 4 Ferris State (L, 4-1 and W, 2-1) Feb. 14-15.
Cory Ward leads BSU in scoring, netting a career-high 25 points (17g-8a) and a team-best 17 goals through 32 games. Forward Markus Gerbrandt and defenseman Matt Prapavessis, the team’s top assist man (16), are tied for second on the team as each have established new career-highs, scoring 21 points. The duo of Andrew Walsh and Jesse Wilkins have shared goaltending duties as of late. While Walsh has a pair of shutouts and a 7-11-4 record, Wilkins leads the team in goals against average (2.44) and save percentage (.926), and has assembled a 2-4-3 record.
Alabama-Huntsville returns to Bemidji, Minn. toting a 1-32-1 overall record and is 1-22-1 in its first season in the WCHA. The Chargers have lost their last nine games and have not won since Dec. 7, but have been playing well as of late. Last weekend, UAH lost a pair of one-goal games to Lake Superior State University (2-1 and 3-2).
Freshman forward Matt Salhany leads the team in scoring with 12 points and is tied for UAH’s top goal (5) and assist (7) spots. The rookie goaltending duo of Carmine Guerriero and Matt Larose have split duties in net this season. Guerriero opens the series leading the team in goals against average (3.90) and save percentage (.904).
The Bemidji State/Alabama-Huntsville rivalry got its start March 11, 1994. The Beavers hold a 40-28-4 lead in the all-time series including a dominant 30-3-3 mark versus the Chargers since Mar. 3, 2006. The Beavers enter this weekend’s two-game set unbeaten by UAH in 17 of the last 18 meetings (16-1-1).
In addition to being charter members of College Hockey America, these teams have a long-standing, bitter rivalry dating back to the NCAA Division II days. The Chargers and Beavers met in the national tournament on four occasions with BSU defeating UAH for NCAA Division II titles in 1994 and at John S. Glas Fieldhouse in 1997.
Tom Serratore (Bemidji State ‘86) is in his 13th season as BSU’s head coach and has an overall record of 209-201-55. Serratore’s teams have won CHA regular-season championships five times since 2003-04 and made trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010, with a 2009 appearance in the Frozen Four. He is a five-time CHA Coach of the Year recipient and was Spencer Penrose National Coach of the Year Runner-up in 2009.
Mike Corbett is in his first season at the helm of the Chargers’ hockey program after spending the previous 10 seasons as an assistant on Frank Sarratore’s staff at the U.S. Air Force Academy. A graduate and former defender at University of Denver, Corbett has also coached for Butte, Billings and Sioux Falls in the junior ranks.
Bemidji State Notables:
• The Bemidji State men’s hockey team had Feb. 21-22 free form competition. In its last action, BSU split a WCHA series versus No. 4 Ferris State, Feb. 14-15. After dropping the opener 4-1, BSU bounced back to earn a 2-1 victory Saturday.
• Radoslav Illo scored his eighth goal of 2013-14 Feb. 14 and added another Feb. 15, establishing a new single-season career-high for the senior. He has accumulated 24 goals and 27 assist in 126 games played.
• Danny Mattson has 17 points (3g-14a) and sits tied for fourth on the team in scoring, but the junior has just three assists in the Beavers’ last 14 outings. His Feb. 15 assist was his first point in four games.
• BSU’s seven ties this season leave it just one shy of a program record eight draws set in 2002-03.
• BSU is tied with Michigan State for the national lead in ties this season (7) and only Denver (12), Bowling Green (11) and Michigan Tech (10) have played in more OT games this season than BSU’s nine.
• When the Beavers’ opponents score more than one goal this season, BSU has just one win (1-16-7).
• BSU was out shot 31-26 Feb. 14 and 33-17 Feb. 15. BSU is 3-11-7 when being out shot this season and is 3-9-7 when opponents log more than 30 shots on goal.
• Feb. 15, the Beavers’ 17-shot performance, marked the first time in 2013-14 that BSU has recorded a win when accumulating fewer than 20 shots on goal (1-2-1).
• Cory Ward leads BSU with a career-best 25 points (17g-8a) this season. His team-leading 17 goals stand as BSU’s top single-season goal scoring performance since Jordan George netted 19 in 2011-12.
• BSU has snuffed out 127-of-146 (.870) opponent man advantage opportunities this season to sit sixth in the nation, while it ranks second in the WCHA killing 96-of-111 (.865) in league opponent power-play opportunities.
• BSU was 0-for-7 on the power-play Feb. 14-15 and is 22-of-139 (.158) on the season, which includes a 17-of-108 clip (.157) in WCHA play to sit eighth in the league.
• The Beavers are 0 for their last 19 power-play chances. BSU’s last power-play goal came in the first period of the team’s Jan. 25 match up with Alaska in Fairbanks.
• Cory Ward (7g-4a) and Matt Prapavessis (3g-8a) lead BSU in scoring at Sanford Center with 11 points apiece in 17 home games this season.
• Six BSU newcomers to have found the back of the net through the Beavers’ first 31 games. Forward John Parker and defenders D.J. Jones and Carter Struthers remain as the only new skaters without a goal.
• This season Phil Marinaccio has logged all eight (5g-3a) of his total points in WCHA contests.
• BSU is 4-9-4 at home this season (.353), which includes a 4-6-2 (.417) mark in WCHA home games.
• Cory Ward has scored 19 (12g-7a) of his 25 (17g-8a) points in league play to lead BSU and rank 17 in WCHA scoring.
• Cory Ward’s 12 goals in WCHA play place him fifth among league counterparts, Markus Gerbrandt ranks eighth with 11.
• Matt Prapavessis has logged 5g-11a in 23 WCHA games to sit sixth among league blueliners in scoring.
• Averaging just 11.3 penalty minutes per game, BSU is the least penalized team in the WCHA.
• BSU returns to action to host long-time rival Alabama-Huntsville this weekend. In a series that dates back to 1994, BSU holds a 40-28-4 edge, which includes BSU being unbeaten in 17 of the last 18 meetings (16-1-1) between the teams.
• The Beavers are 22-8-1 all-time in games played versus the Chargers in Bemidji, which includes 1994 and 1997 NCAA Division II Championships series victories played at John S. Glas Fieldhouse.
• BSU’s last loss to the Chargers came Jan. 8, 2011 by the score of 4-3.
• In goaltender Andrew Walsh’s four career starts versus the Chargers he has a 4-0-0 record with 82 saves to go with a .988 save percentage and .025 goals against average. He has led BSU to a trio of shutout victories (3-0 and 5-0) Dec. 16-17, 2011 and 1-0 Oct. 26, 2013.
• Offensively, Danny Mattson has five points (1g-4a) in four career games versus the Chargers and carries a career +5 +/- average into the Feb. 28-Mar. 1 series.
• Sophomore Markus Gerbrandt has three goals in two career games versus UAH, which includes his first collegiate hat trick in a 6-1 victory over the Chargers in Huntsville, Ala. Oct. 25.