Huskies to Face In-State Rival Bemidji State this Weekend

St. Cloud, MN – The #2 ranked SCSU Huskies place their four-game winning streak on the line hosting fellow Minnesota State Universities and Colleges institution, Bemidji State University at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center on November 16 and 17. These two teams have a long history of competition going back to the NCAA Division III years for both schools. There is also a number of crossover stories including Bemidij State University’s head coach Tom Serratore’s years at SCSU as an assistant coach under Craig Dahl from 1993 to 1999. On the other bench, current SCSU assistant coach Mike Gibbons is a graduate of Bemidji State University, where he played for the Beavers men’s hockey team from 1975 to 1979. He gained All-America recognition in 1978 and 1979, was a member of the national title-winning team in 1979 and started his coaching career at Bemidji State as an assistant in 1981. He served as the BSU head coach during the 1982-83 season, while head coach Bob Peters took a year-long sabbatical and was named the NHCA Conference Coach of the Year and the College Division National Coach of the Year. Also, of interest is current BSU goaltender Zach Driscoll began his collegiate career at SCSU during the 2016-17 season and then transferred to BSU becoming eligible to play for the Beavers this season. Also, current BSU sophomore forward, Brendan Harris was an early commit to SCSU before deciding to sign his national letter of intent with the Beavers.  Finally, current BSU defenseman, Dillon Eichstadt is the nephew of former SCSU player, Scott Eichstadt who skated for the Huskies through the 1990-91 season. As a result, the multiple story lines will make for an interesting series between these two Minnesota schools this weekend in St. Cloud.    

    

#2 St. Cloud State University Huskies (9-1-0 | 4-0-0 NCHC) vs #NR Bemidji State University Beavers (5-2-1 | 3-1-0 WCHA) 

TV: (Friday) SCSU Sports Network – Charter CH 426/823 and  Comcast 999 | (Saturday) Fox Sports North Plus Channel Finder
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Live Stream: NCHC.tv ($) |  FLOHOCKEY.tv (Friday) $  | TSN (Saturday)
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)
Tickets: SCSU Athletics
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
When: Friday, November 16 – 7:07 PM CT | Saturday, November 17 – 6:07 PM CT

Last Time Out:

On Friday, it was Nolan Walker and his Huskies that prevailed in an early season conference battle between the #2 ranked Huskies and  #5 ranked Denver Pioneers. For the winning Huskies, Walker was the leading scorer on the night with 2 goals and an assist for three points. The Huskies rallied from a 2-1 deficit and Jimmy Schuldt scored the game-winner in the 4-3 win. SCSU outshot the Pioneers 39 to 24 and David Hrenak picked up his 6th win of the season. On Saturday, the Huskies had to earn another come from behind win falling behind 2-0 and having to rally with goals by Nick Perbix, Blake Lizotte and Easton Brodzinski to tie the game and Kevin Fitzgerald with the go-ahead goal in the 4-3 win. Hrenak again got the win stopping 18 of 21 SOG for his 7th win against no losses. It’s now four straight come from behind wins for the Huskies who improved their overall record to 9-1-0 and NCHC record to 4-0-0.

Bemidji hosted Hockey East’s Merrimack in a two-game non-conference series. On Friday, the Beavers exploded for 5 goals in the first period en-route to a 8-3 win. Aaron Miller scored twice including the eventual game-winner in period one. Henry Johnson stopped 21 of 24 shots on goal in the win. On Saturday, despite outshooting Merrimack 38-17 they couldn’t muster any offense getting shut out 1-0. Former SCSU goaltender Zach Driscoll got the start and turned aside 16 of 17 shots on goal in the loss.

Head to Head 

The two squads last met on January 27, 2017 in the North Star College Cup. SCSU prevailed in that contest 2-1. The Huskies are 20-3-3 all-time vs Bemidji at the Division I level. They are 3-1-1 in the last five games and 6-2-2 in the last 10 games. SCSU is 10-2-2 all-time vs the Beavers at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

Scouting the Bemidji State University Beavers :

The BSU Beavers who just missed cracking the top twenty of this weeks US College Hockey Online (USCHO) poll are always a well-coached, highly disciplined team in their systems and will bring that personality to St. Cloud this weekend. Of note is that their defense is currently ranked #2 nationally allowing a stingy 1.38 goals against per game. Heading into the season coach Serratore admittedly had a number of holes to fill and that was recognized by the WCHA media/coaches in the pre-season poll as the Beavers were pegged to finish 5th in the conference.

The most significant loss for the Beavers was the graduation of four-year starter at goaltender, Michael Bitzer. A workhorse, Bitzer played in 138 games and put up incredible numbers including a career 1.98 GAA and .922 SV%. An All-American and Hobey Baker finalist, it will be nearly impossible to replace a player that had this much consistency over a four-year span. Add to that the loss of 30 point scorer Kyle Bauman and the Fitzgerald twins – Gerry, Miles and Leo plus three other seniors and it’s a rebuild season for BSU. The final dagger for coach Serratore was the loss of  Zach Whitecloud, a talented and rugged defenseman, who opted to sign a free agent contract with the Las Vegas Golden Knights following his sophomore season.

Despite the loss of Whitecloud, coach Serratore still feels the strength of his team is on the blue line.  In an unusual move, Serratore named five captains for this season including three on defense – seniors Justin Baudry, Dillan Eichstadt and junior Tommy Muck. In particular, they will lean heavily on Baudry and Eichstadt but the coaching staff feels they have nine defenseman that can all contribute.

At forward, they lost dependable and productive forwards in Gerry and Myles Fitzgerald and Kyle Bauman, who could all play center. In particular, Bauman was their defensive zone faceoff specialist and they’ll have to find a way to replace him and his aforementioned 30 points. One player that comes to mind is Brendan Harris, a former SCSU commit who had 4-7-11 in 2017-18 and already has 6 points this season. Others that are contributing already are sophomore, Aaron Miller (4-2-6), freshman, Owen Sillinger  (3-1-4) and captains Adam Brady and Jay Dickman. Currently ranked 45th nationally in offense that side of the ice will probably take a back seat to a strong defensive game to drive their success.

In goal, the position is wide open. Former Husky Zach Driscoll and sophomore returnee Hank Johnson have split their eight games thus far. And, with a competitive schedule so far that has included North Dakota, Northern Michigan and Merrimack and a trip to Alaska, both get an A+ for their efforts. Driscoll has an outstanding 0.98 GAA and .959 SV% and Johnson a 1.25 GAA including one shutout and .948 SV%. At this point , the coaching staff couldn’t ask for more out of its goaltenders.

Special teams are a mixed bag with the penalty kill a respectable 84% but the power play struggling at less than 15% and only converting four times in 28 opportunities.

Bemidji’s national statistics are as follows:

Team Offense: 2.25 GPG (45th)
Team Defense: 1.38 GAPG (2nd)
Power Play: 14.29 % 4/28 (46th)
Penalty Kill: 83.87 % 26/31 (17th)
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 11.25 34/90 (42nd)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

The Huskies have had an obvious strong start to the season with a 9-1-0 record and are undefeated at home in four games including a key sweep last weekend over previously unbeaten and #5 ranked Denver University. With no complaints about the results, there are still a few areas to harp about. A worrisome trend has been the teams tendency to fall behind early in games and then have to rally late in the contest for the win. They’ve had comebacks in four straight contests and coach Larson has expressed some concern about this. Untimely penalties late in periods has also been a trend but has not hurt them much considering they’ve only allowed 4 power play goals in 43 opportunities.

Currently, the Huskies are the fourth-ranked defense in the nation allowing only 1.80 goals per game.  Led by All-American, Hobey Baker finalist, pre-season All-NCHC pick and captain, Jimmy Schuldt, Jon Lizotte, a four-year player and alternate captain and talented puck mover Jack Ahcan, currently tied for the team lead in points with 12 and tied for 3rd on the national points chart for defensemen, this diverse unit of defenders is one of the top threesome in college hockey. Add to the group, sophomore, Luke Jaycox and a talented group of newcomers – Brendan Bushy (+3) , NHL draft choice Nick Perbix (+7) and local native Spencer Meier (+2) and you have one of the most talent-laden defensive units in college hockey. Unfortunately, sophomore, Tyler Anderson, another solid contributor sustained an upper body injury vs Mount Royal and may be out for another five weeks. This is a deep, deep unit and the envy of coaches around the league. The entire unit is plus 33 and not a single regular is in the minus.

The Huskies are blessed with a lot of depth at forward and seniors Robby Jackson, Patrick Newell and Jacob Benson have experienced loads of success during their time at SCSU. They’ve experienced a Frozen Faceoff Championship, a Penrose Cup and have been a part of two NCAA tournament squads. Pre-season all-league NCHC pick Robby Jackson, a 21 year-old senior led the Huskies in scoring in 2017-18 and currently is tied for the team lead in points with 12 but leads the squad with 1.33 points per game. Not just an offensive player, Jackson has a solid work ethic and his defensive game has blossomed as well and he’s +8. Jackson will join the 100 point club this season. Senior Patrick Newell is an experienced forward being counted on to be a leader this season. Skilled and tough along the boards for his size he’s finally filling out physically which will certainly help his game this season. He currently leads the forwards with 7 goals and 12 points. Senior Jacob Benson was named alternate captain and he has 2 goals and four points in eight games.

Montreal Canadiens first-rounder, Ryan Poehling has 12 points in 10 games and a shooting percentage of 21.4%. The Poehling twins, Jack and Nick are a coaches dream with a work ethic through the roof and preferably matched against the opponents top line. Sophomore Blake Lizotte made the NCHC All-Rookie team last season and is quickly becoming one of the most exciting forwards in college hockey. He’s another player with tons of talent and a motor that won’t quit he’ll be a scoring leader for the Huskies this season. He currently has eight points in ten games. Easton Brodzinski is another member of the 2017-18 NCHC All-Rookie team and it was well-deserved. A natural goal scorer with a wicked wrist shot he netted 14 goals his rookie season and tends to score in bunches. He has 3 goals in the last 4 games and two game-winning goals. Sophomore Kevin Fitzgerald was a surprise as a rookie earning 38 games of playing time and has a combination of skill and grinder and skating with the Poehling twins contributes to a relentless forecheck. He has 3 goals including a game-winner vs Denver last Saturday.

Minnesota Wild draft choice Sam Hentges and Nolan Walker are already prominent contributors to the lineup. Walker has an outstanding shooting percentage of 42% and Hentges 25%. Hentges and Walker have combined for 9 goals and 18 points. Micah Miller is another talented newcomer that will be battling for ice time and has shown increased confidence and strong puck control in his last two outings.

With senior Jeff Smith and sophomore David Hrenak, the Huskies have one of the top one-two punches at goaltender in college hockey. Hrenak has yet to lose a game, is 7-0-0 and has an outstanding 1.86 GAA and a .918 SV% and one shutout. Smith has split time with Hrenak and is 2-1-0 with one shutout, 1.68 GAA and .922 SV%.

There is not a statistical category that they are not excelling in right now.

Nationally, the Huskies statistics are as follows:

Offense: 4.20 (t 2nd)
Defense: 1.80 (4th)
Power Play:  25.58% (8th) 11/43
Penalty Kill: 90.70 (2nd) 39/43
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 11.80 (38th) 52/118

Game Prospectus:

This will be an interesting matchup between the second ranked offense in college hockey vs the second ranked team defense. Bemidji has an experienced defensive unit and it’ll be interesting to see how they hold up against an offense that rarely lets up their attack until the final horn sounds. Expect to see that patented Bemidji forecheck looking for an opportunity to capitalize on a turnover. Zach Driscoll will start at least one of the games and it’ll be interesting to see how he does against a number of his former ‘mates that know his goaltending tendencies. The Beavers captured a win and a tie earlier this season vs North Dakota and only yielded two goals in two games despite being outshot 56 to 34 – proof they can get the job done with defense.

The Huskies have fallen behind in each of the last four games. You don’t want to have to rally against one of the stronger defensive teams in college hockey. The Huskies will have last change as the home team and will get the line matchups they prefer. It should open up some offense for the Huskies. Keep an eye on Brendan Harris to see how he performs against a team he initially committed to.

This should be an entertaining weekend involving two in-state rivals that have not played each other for several years.

All the links for this weekends games can be found HERE

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