BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey team opens its bid for the coveted Broadmoor Trophy and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title this weekend as it hosts long-time rival Minnesota State University, Mankato for a two-game WCHA series at Sanford Center. The weekend will also serve as Alumni Weekend. The Beavers will honor their four National Championship teams from the 1990s throughout the weekend.
After going 1-1-1 against two of the top three teams in the country during its first two weeks of nonconference play, BSU now shifts its focus to the WCHA. The Beavers were 12-11-5 in league play a year ago and grabbed their first home playoff series since joining the league prior to the 2010-11 campaign. Now BSU hosts the preseason favorite to win the league, while it was picked by league coaches to finish fourth behind MSU, Bowling Green and Michigan Tech.
Head Coach Tom Serratore opened 2015-16 with seven of his top eight point-producers and over 80 percent of BSU’s 2014-15 goal-scoring production on the ice. However, through the first three games, the team’s top goal-scoring threat, Charlie O’Connor, and 2014-15 All-WCHA pick Brendan Harms, are buried on the stat sheet. Gerry Fitzgerald leads the team with four goals, while defender Graeme McCormack is second on the team with three points (2g-1a) and has played a significant role on a BSU power-play unit that ranks fourth in the nation at 4-of-11 (.364). Michael Bitzer, has shouldered all of the goaltending responsibility, posting a 1-1-1 record with a 3.26 goals against average and a .890 save percentage, while backstopping a penalty-kill unit that is 13-of-15 on the year.
Minnesota State arrives at Sanford Center seeking its first victory. At 0-4-0, the Mavericks dropped a pair of home games to Nebraska Omaha (3-2 and 2-0) to open the season before being shut out in back-to-back games at St. Cloud State (4-0 and 3-0) last weekend.
The Mavericks return 18 skaters from their 2014-15 regular-season and MacNaughton Cup championship team. C.J Franklin and Jimmy Mullin have MSU’s two goals, while four players, including Zach Stepan have assists. Cole Huggins is 0-4-0 in net with a 2.80 goals against average and .889 save percentage.
This weekend’s series marks an extension to one of BSU’s most often revisited rivalries. The BSU-MSU series got its start Nov. 25, 1974 and has included 105 meetings, which is second to only Wisconsin-Superior (129 games) as BSU’s most familiar opponent of all time. The Beavers enter the weekend toting a 49-45-13 advantage in the all-time series and are 32-16-5 when hosting the Mavericks. However, MSU has been victorious in nine of the last 13 meetings between the teams. The Mavericks took the season series a year ago winning three of the five meetings (3-2-0), including the last meeting between the teams in the 2014-15 regular-season finale at Sanford Center, 3-0, March 7.
Tom Serratore is in his 15th season as head coach of his Alma Mater (‘86) and has an overall record of 228-225-61. Serratore’s teams have won five CHA regular-season championships 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 the Spencer Penrose National Coach of the Year Runner-up in 2009.
In his fourth season at MSU, Crookston, Minn. native Mike Hastings has built a powerhouse. No NCAA Division I team has piled up more wins over the last three seasons than the Mavericks, while MSU has picked up two Broadmoor Trophies and a MacNaughton Cup along the way. Prior to taking the reigns of the MSU hockey program, Hastings spent three seasons as associate head coach at Omaha and served as an assistant coach for a season at Minnesota and another at his alma mater, St. Cloud State. Hastings cut his coaching teeth as the head coach of the Omaha Lancers of the USHL.
Bemidji State notables:
• Bemidji State moved to 1-1-1 on the season after earning a 4-4 tie with top-ranked North Dakota Friday before dropping a 5-2 contest Saturday.
• In his 15th season as head coach of the Beavers, Tom Serratore has a career record of 228-225-62 (.503) and is 10-21-2 all-time versus MSU.
• After a three assist weekend versus UND, senior Markus Gerbrandt (2g-5a) matched Cory Ward (3g-4a) for current Beaver with the most career scoring success versus UND. Each has played in eight games versus North Dakota.
• Friday Markus Gerbrandt was one of seven BSU players to figure into the scoring. He posted the second multi-assist game of his career and his first since Jan. 25, 2014 at Alaska.
• With two assists Friday, Cory Ward recorded the 10th multi-point game of his BSU career. That leads all current Beavers.
• Gerry Fitzgerald led all BSU players in scoring versus UND netting three goals, including posting both of BSU’s goals in a 5-2 loss in the series finale.
• BSU is now 0-3-1 when facing North Dakota as a top-ranked team. BSU is 3-10-1 versus the nation’s top team since it made the jump to the NCAA Division I level for the 1999-2000 season, which includes a victory over then-No. 1 Minnesota State Jan. 24 of last year.
• The Beavers are now 1-1-1 in nonconference play this season. Last season BSU was 4-6-0 outside of WCHA play.
• In his 100th game as Beaver, Graeme McCormack posted a career-high two goals to led BSU in scoring Friday. It marked the fourth muti-point game if the senior defender’s collegiate career.
• McCormack leads a BSU power-play unit that is 4-of-11 (.364) on the season with two goals and an assist on the man advantage. The Beavers rank fourth in the country in power-play efficiency.
• BSU was 3-for-5 on the man advantage in the series opener and was quick to strike. BSU scored on its first shot during its first two power-play opportunities, needing just 34 seconds combined.
• Bemidji State’s penalty-kill has been stingy through its first three games of the season. Holding (2/3) Minnesota Duluth scoreless on four opportunities in the opener before going 9-for-11 versus (1) North Dakota last weekend.
• Freshmen Justin Baudry and Dillion Eichstadt posted their first collegiate points Friday. Baudry logged a pair of assists, while Eichstadt registered an assist on Gerry Fitzgerald’s game-tying goal.
• Both sophomore Jordan Heller and Dillon Eichstadt hail from Bemidji, Minn., marking the first time two Bemidji natives have appeared on BSU’s roster since Scott Johnson and Tim Donaghue in 1991-92.
• Gerry Fitzgerald leads the team’s with four goals in BSU’s first three games. Last season as a freshman, Fitzgerald was fourth on the team in scoring and led all BSU rookies, with 19 points (7g-12a). Five of his career 11 goals have figured into the decision. He has four game-winning goals to go with Friday’s game-tying goal.
• Friday was BSU’s first overtime game of 2015-16. In 2014-15, the Beavers were 1-1-4 in six OT contests.
• Graeme McCormack has a team-best seven blocked shots this Season. That is tied for fifth in the league.
• BSU now turns its focus to WCHA play as it hosts Minnesota State this weekend. In a series that got it start in 1974, BSU holds a slim 79-75-13 edge in the rivalry, including wining two of the last three meetings between the teams.
• MSU holds a 10-4-0 edge between the teams in WCHA games.
• BSU holds a 32-16-5 all-time record versus MSU in games played in Bemidji, but is 3-3-0 since hosting MSU at Sanford Center in 2010-11.
• In three career games versus MSU, Michael Bitzer is 2-1-0 with a 2.69 goals against average and a .905 save percentage.
• Seniors Graeme McCormack and Cory Ward lead all current BSU players with five points apiece versus MSU. Ward has three goals and two assists in 11 games, while McCormack has netted three goals and two assists in nine games.
• McCormack has logged three of his career seven goals in nine games versus the Mavericks.
• Sophomore Gerry Fitzgerald and Markus Gerbrandt each have a game-winning goal versus MSU during their careers.
• Since joining the WCHA to open the 2010-11 season, BSU is 5-4-1 in its first series of the WCHA season, while it is 5-0-1 since 2012-13 and is unbeaten in its last three WCHA openers (2-0-1).