Beavers confident leading up to showdown with UND
GRAND FORKS -- It hasn't been talked about at Bemidji State practice this week. But there's good reason for the Beavers to have a quiet confidence heading into this weekend's series against an opponent that has won more playoff games than any Wes...
GRAND FORKS -- It hasn't been talked about at Bemidji State practice this week.
But there's good reason for the Beavers to have a quiet confidence heading into this weekend's series against an opponent that has won more playoff games than any Western Collegiate Hockey Association team in the last decade.
Not only did ninth-seed Bemidji State snap an 18-game winless streak against fourth-seeded University of North Dakota earlier this season, the Beavers have tasted postseason success in their short WCHA tenure.
Bemidji State went to Nebraska-Omaha last season and swept the Mavericks on the road to earn a spot at the Final Five, where they upset eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth in a quarterfinal game.
"I think, indirectly, it helps those guys," Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. "They have the belief, they have faith. That's the beauty of the playoffs. We have some experience in big games and we've won some big games. Every player in hockey, you can see their eyes light up in the playoffs. I don't think there's any question our guys will try to use that experience to help them out."
The Beavers (17-16-3) have the tall task of knocking off a Sioux team that has made nine straight trips to the Final Five -- the longest current streak in the WCHA by far. And they will have to do it in Ralph Engelstad Arena, where the Sioux have lost just four times in 20 games this season.
"It's going to be an extremely challenging weekend for us," said Serratore, whose team swept Anchorage last weekend to pass Wisconsin in the standings. "North Dakota is playing great hockey. They've been on fire. They're one of the top teams in the country and we realize that. We know how difficult it is going into Ralph Engelstad Arena and it will be even more difficult in the playoffs. It's going to be challenging. It's going to be exciting."
The stakes are high for the Sioux (20-12-3), who are trying to earn their 10th straight trip to the NCAA tournament. If they don't win the first-round series, their season is likely over. UND enters the weekend at No. 13 in the Pairwise Rankings.
"We still have a long ways to go in terms of where we would like to get to," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "Short term, we have to get through a best two-of-three series this weekend or our season does not continue."
Schlossman is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.