WCHA Playoff Preview: UND vs. Bemidji State

November 20, 2011. Bemidji State 1, North Dakota 0.

The last time these two teams met, the Beavers held on for their first victory over UND since 1970 (and second overall). Dan Bakala made 26 saves for BSU and North Dakota fell to 2-6-0 in conference play with the loss.

But Bemidji State hasn’t only been getting it done with great goaltending and tight, low-scoring games. Since November 20th, the Beavers have scored 4 or more goals seven times and compiled a record of 13-8-2. On the flip side, however, Tom Serratore’s squad has given up 4 or more goals eight times.

I’m not certain that BSU would like to play racehorse hockey with North Dakota. Since that November night, the Green and White have notched 4 or more goals twelve times and allowed that number only five times while boasting a record of 16-5-2.

Dave Hakstol’s squad continues to run short, with only eleven “forwards” each night. I use quotation marks because Dan Senkbeil and Joe Gleason are playing up front after beginning the season as defensemen.

Last season (Bemidji’s first in the WCHA), the Beavers advanced to the Final Five, securing a road sweep of Nebraska-Omaha in the first round and dispatching Minnesota-Duluth in the quarterfinals before falling to Denver 6-2 in the semifinals.

North Dakota has hosted the first round of the WCHA playoffs for ten consecutive seasons, a league record. UND is seeking its tenth straight berth in the Final Five, which would also extend the longest active streak in the conference. Minnesota made 11 consecutive Final Five appearances between 1999-2009 and ten consecutive appearances from 1988-1997.

This series marks the first time North Dakota and Bemidji State have ever met in the playoffs. Bemidji will need to win the WCHA Final Five to advance to the NCAA tournament this season, while UND would be squarely on the tournament bubble with a series loss. Any result in which UND advances to St. Paul for the WCHA Final Five would land the Fighting Sioux in fairly safe territory for the NCAA’s.

Bemidji State Team Profile

Head Coach: Tom Serratore (11th season at BSU, 195-162-41 .541)
Pairwise Ranking: t-27th
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 17-16-3 overal, 11-14-3 WCHA (9th)
Last Season: 15-18-5 overall, 8-15-5 WCHA (t-9th)

Team Offense: 2.69 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.81 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.2% (24 of 13)
Penalty Kill: 84.4% (119 of 141)

Key Players: Junior F Jordan George (18-12-30), Senior F Shea Walters (12-13-25), Senior F Ben Kinne (10-11-21), Senior D Brad Hunt (5-19-24), Freshman D Matt Prapavessis (1-12-13), Senior G Dan Bakala (11-11-2, 2.57 GAA, .914 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (8th season at UND, 205-105-30, .647)
Pairwise Ranking: t-12th
National Rankings: #12/#12
This Season: 20-12-3 overall, 16-11-1 WCHA (4th)
Last Season: 32-9-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)

Team Offense: 3.09 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.69 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.0% (34 of 162)
Penalty Kill: 81.5% (119 of 146)

Key Players: Junior F Danny Kristo (17-23-40) Junior F Corban Knight (12-22-34), Sophomore F Brock Nelson (23-16-39), Freshman D Nick Mattson (6-12-18), Senior D Ben Blood (2-15-17), Senior G Brad Eidsness (7-3-1, 2.09 GAA, .923 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 20, 2011 (Bemidji, MN). A scoreless game turned in the third period when North Dakota’s Andrew MacWilliam and Mark MacMillan were penalized on the same play. 72 seconds into the ensuing 5 on 3 advantage, BSU’s Jordan George banged home a loose rebound and the Beavers held on for the 1-0 victory. It was Bemidji State’s first victory over UND in over 40 years.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: February 27, 2011. Four of the six seniors in the lineup scored a goal as the homestanding Sioux wrapped up a four game season sweep of the Beavers. UND won the Sunday afternoon contest 5-1 after downing BSU 5-2 on Saturday afternoon.

Most Important Meeting: October 15, 2010 (Bemidji, MN). In the first game played at the BREC, North Dakota spotted BSU the opening goal less than two minutes into the contest and then steamrolled the Beavers 5-2. The Fighting Sioux outshot their fellow Green-and-Whiters 38-14.

Last Ten: North Dakota has won nine of the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring BSU 39-17 during that stretch. One of those UND victories was a 4-3 overtime decision in Grand Forks, while Bemidji State’s lone bright spot was a 1-0 home win earlier this season.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 22-2-1 (.900), including a 14-1-1 (.906) record in games played in Grand Forks. The two teams have never met in the postseason.

Game News and Notes:

Under head coach Dave Hakstol, North Dakota is 14-3 in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and have yet to lose an opening round series. BSU head coach Tom Serratore will coach in his 400th career game on Saturday night and is five wins short of 200 for his career. Sioux sophomore forward Brock Nelson won the league scoring title with 20 goals in conference action.

The Prediction

It’s always difficult to end a team’s season, and that’s the task North Dakota is faced with this weekend. I have a feeling that the Beavers will attempt to play an up-tempo style in Friday’s opener and lock things down in Saturday’s rematch. This series may go to Sunday, but I’ve got UND in two, with Saturday’s series finale going to overtime. UND 5-2, 3-2 (OT).

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