Men’s hockey pre-game: Minnesota vs. Bemidji State

Max Sanders

After a week which saw a player quit and another send out a "pre-emptive" press release announcing his decision to remain on the team, the Minnesota men’s hockey team will finally make news for its play on the ice, when they host No. 7 Bemidji State in a two-game series beginning tonight.

The Gophers (3-4-1) just finished four conference series, including three against the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s elite. While this weekend allows for a brief respite from WCHA competition, the level of play will only increase this weekend as they host the suddenly dangerous Beavers of Bemidji State (7-0-1; 4-0-0 CHA).

Owners of the nation’s longest unbeated streak (eight games), Bemidji State is proving it belongs in the WCHA conference, which it will join along with the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2010-11.

The success this year is nothing new for Bemidji State. The Beavers advanced to the Frozen Four of last year’s NCAA Championship and at 7-0-1 this year have proved last year was no fluke.

Bemidji State Offensive First Line:

Left Wing-Jordan George

Center-Matt Read

Right Wing-Ian Lowe

Leading Bemidji State is forward Matt Read. The junior center already has 14 points on the season, coming by way of seven goals and seven assists.

Bemidji State Defensive First Line:

Left-Jake Areshenko

Right-Brad Hunt

On the defensive end Bemidji State’s Brad Hunt has 10 points on nine assists.

Goalie: Dan Bakala

The strong play for the Beavers continues between the pipes, as sophomore Dan Bakala enters the series with a 6-0-1 record on the year, along with a stellar goals against average of 1.40 and a save precentage of .946.

Minnesota enters this weekend on the heels of a split series against Wisconsin, but with the multiple controversies of the past six days the Badgers series seems to have taken place years ago.

Defenseman Sam Lofquist abruptly quit the team following last weekend’s Wisconsin series, and now plays for the OHL’s Guelph Storm. Just two days later sophomore captain Jordan Schroeder announced his committment to the team in a press-release, announcing he has no plans to leave the team early for the National Hockey League. Now, a new rumor has another defenseman reportedly considering transfer.

Sophomore Aaron Ness is reported to be considering transfer to rival University of North Dakota. While it appears to be unfounded, the talk of another player considering leaving the Minnesota program adds to what has been a long week for head coach Don Lucia.

No doubt happy to get back on the ice, the Gophers made very little changes following their 5-2 win last Saturday at Wisconsin.

Minnesota Offensive First Line:

Left Wing-Mike Hoeffel

Center-Jordan Schroeder

Right Wing-Nico Sacchetti

Filling in for Jay Barriball, Sachetti held his own last weekend. The sophomore played solid hockey almost all weekend, with the exception of late in Friday’s game, when he was directly in front of the right side of the net and had a chance at a rebound goal but his shot went high left of the net.

Minnesota Defensive First Line:

Left-Aaron Ness

Right-David Fischer

The defensive unit is in flux right now, as the Gophers only have six healthy players for the weekend’s series. While Ness stressed in Wednesday’s press conference that having six defensemen is not a big deal, it will be interesting to see how the lack of bench players effects the starters. Joining Cade Fairchild on the second line is senior Brian Schack. Filling in for the now-departed Sam Lofquist, Schack scored a goal and had an assist in last weekend’s series. Minnesota will need all the help they can get on the defensive side, and will no doubt look for a strong performance from Schack moving forward.

Goalie: Alex Kangas

An up-and-down year for the junior recently reached its highest peak yet last Saturday, when the junior net-minder had a career-best 45 saves in the win. Kangas has faced the WCHA’s best, and has a 2.35 goals against average along with a .933 save percentage. Lucia said sophomore Kent Patterson has "a good chance" of seeing action in the series, but if Kangas echoes last Saturday’s performance he will make it hard for Lucia to pull the junior out of the net.