With Michigan slated to face off with Bemidji State in the first round of the NCAA tournament tomorrow evening, I was lucky enough to get in contact with “Millsy,” who runs the BSU hockey site The Beaver Pond, for a quick Q&A about the Beavers. Thanks to Millsy for being willing to do this Q&A on short notice, and also for providing an extensive history he wrote on BSU hockey, which I’ll post after the jump.
TWB: What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of the Beavers? How do you think they match up against Michigan?
Millsy: I will admit, I have not seen Michigan play this year, so I am not sure how they will match up. BSU’s strength is their work ethic, what everyone who has seen them call Beaver Hockey. This team will not be outworked by anyone in the nation. They are very aggressive on the forecheck and will block shots like no other team I have seen. They are not afraid to get in the corners and bang bodies. They have quite a bit of speed and they do roll four lines, which has helped them in a couple of come from behind victories this year as other teams shorten their bench and go to three lines. Defensively, they are very sound and very seldom get caught in odd man rushes or out of position.
Looking at their conference numbers (almost 4 goals and 32 shots per game) it would appear that BSU likes to play an up-tempo style of hockey. What style of play does BSU prefer to play, and how do you think they will try to attack the Wolverines?
Up until three years ago, BSU played a very defense first brand of hockey, as that is how they could compete against the “big boys”. With the success that they had, the more offensively skilled recruits started to show up, and that has lead to a change to an offensive style. But Beaver Hockey still preaches taking care of your own end first.
Bemidji State has one of the strangest resumes in the tournament, between the weakness of the CHA and a very road-heavy non-conference schedule. How should a Michigan fan interpret BSU’s schedule and their performance this season?
BSU is used to playing on the road as it is hard to get teams to come to Bemidji from a travel standpoint unless they are within bussing distance (thank you North Dakota, Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State-Mankato). Just to give you an idea, a typical conference trip for BSU involves bussing to Minneapolis on Wednesday, catch a flight out of Minneapolis on Thursday to Chicago or Detroit and then catching another flight to Huntsville, Niagara, or Robert Morris. So they are travel tested and a direct charter flight out of Bemidji to Fort Wayne will be a cake walk for them. Since January 1, 2010, they have had just five home games out of a total of 18 over that time frame. Their road and neutral site record is 11-6-4 on the season, while they have a home record of 12-3-0. So if Fort Wayne turns into a “home” game for Michigan, the Beavers will be ready for it.
Obviously, Bemidji State put themselves on the college hockey map with their improbable Frozen Four run last season. Do you think they can make a similar run this season, and how do you think last year’s experience effects their approach to this year’s tournament?
Can BSU pull off a run like last year? The answer is yes, this is a one game elimination tournament and anything can happen. Will the Beavers sneak up on anyone this year? No, last year took that away, and the Beavers have been ranked in the top ten for most of the year.
Thanks again to Millsy for taking part in this — make sure to head over to The Beaver Pond for more on Michigan’s first-round opponent. Hit the jump for Millsy’s extensive piece on the illustrious history of BSU hockey.
BSU HOCKEY HISTORY:
In the fall of 1946, a conversation between a former football player, H.J Erickson, and then current student Ed Johnson, at a small northern Minnesota college would be the humble beginnings of one of the more storied college hockey programs in the nation. With student Ed Johnson stating “You know what this school needs is a darn good hockey team” was the humble beginning of the Bemidji State Beavers Ice Hockey Team. In January of 1947, Bemidji State Vice President John S. Glas announced that the school approved $100 for hockey sticks, found some old football jerseys and with Ed Johnson donating some goalie pads, the Bemidji State Men’s Ice Hockey team hit the ice.
Even though the 1947 team is not included in the official records of BSU Hockey History, 1947 saw the Beavers play six games ending with a 0-5-1 record. Ken Johnson scored the first Beaver goal in history, although the Beavers lost that game to Itasca. The Bemidji Sports Arena would serve as the squads first rink for the Green and White, although it was never intended to be used as a hockey arena. The ice surface was undersized and the seating was poor, but it was home.
The following year, the Beavers would hire Jack Aldrich as their first coach. The team would notch their first win on February 1, 1948 against International Falls by a score of 6-2. The Beavers would finish the year 2-8, gaining a victory in the final game of the year against the Brunswick Aces.
1949 saw the Beavers notch their first winning record in school history as they would go 9-6 under the guidance of Eric Hughs. They started the season with two shutout wins over the Detroit Lakes Rangers by scores of 13-0 and 10-0. A game at St. Cloud State was called due to soft ice with the teams deadlocked at 1-1. With Eric Hughs back behind the bench for the 1949-50 season, the Beavers would go 8-7, but that would be the last time the team hit the ice for nine years. At 2:20 p.m. on January 4, 1949, the roof of the Bemidji Sports Arena would collapse under the weight of snow. Several children were skating directly under the section of the caved-in roof, but miraculously escaped the falling beams and timbers. The Beavers continued to use the ill-fated Sports Arena for another year following the collapsed roofs clean-up but numerous attempts by the Beavers to further use the arena, and at the possibility of placing a rink on Lake Bemidji failed. With the now departed rink, hockey at the University was halted until 1960 when Bemidji State again fielded a hockey squad.
January 1960 saw the Beavers take to the ice again under the guidance of Dr. Vic Weber. The team’s first game back would be a 4-0 loss at St. Cloud State- but they would go 2-2 on the season with victories over Concordia-Moorhead and Northland (Wis.). 1960 also marked the first season in Beaver History that all the teams on the schedule were from other Universities. Local papers recited the Beavers first game back to action as follows: “200 fans were on hand today to watch the return of Beaver Hockey to the 17th Street Rink located at the Bemidji High School Athletic Field today [February 13, 1960] as the Beavers dropped a 4-2 decision over visiting St. Cloud State. Referee Dick Kroll was injured at 3:21 of the third period, bringing a halt to the Beavers opening game of the season”. One game later on the “new” 17th Street Rink saw an end to their new, very temporary, home ice. That first abruptly ended game with the visiting Huskies, and subsequent contests for the next seven years were conducted on an outdoor rink on campus referred to as the new 19th Street Rink. The movement from rink-to-rink in such as short duration of time gave the Beavers a local nickname of “Hard Luck Boys” in the media. The 19th Street Rink, or College Rink was located just south of the current Physical Education Building and Gymnasium on the BSU campus. The first game conducted on the new College Rink took place on January 5, 1961 where the Beavers defeated visiting St. John’s 3-1 under balmy temperatures and on melting ice.
The next seven seasons saw the Beavers run up a record of 50-18-3. At that time, the only National Tournaments being played were for Division I teams, so the Beavers were left to just playing for school pride during their regular season schedule. Little did anyone know at the time, the course of Bemidji State hockey was about to change dramatically.
In April of 1966, Bemidji State University was able to hire a young head coach from the University of North Dakota by the name of RH “Bob” Peters. North Dakota was a Division I program that had just gone to the NCAA Tournament under Peters’ guidance. In his two years at North Dakota, he compiled a record of 42-20-1. But the lure of being able to build a college program from scratch at a small school, to put his “trademark” on a program per say, was just too much for Peters to pass up.
The 1966-67 season saw the Beavers with a new head coach and a new conference, the ICHA. The four team league consisting of: Bemidji State, Lake Superior State, Wisconsin-Superior and Lakehead (Ont.) saw the Beavers take the league title with a 10-2 record (13-5-1 overall). Peters would win his first game behind the Beaver bench with a 3-1 win at Lake Superior State. His first home game would also be a victory, a 5-1 win over St. Cloud State.
After the Beavers conducted their final game on the old 19th Street/College Rink [held on February 4, 1967 with an 8-1 win over Wisconsin-Superior] the Beavers would move into their newly constructed rink at the BSU Fieldhouse. And with it, another first for the Green and White with the ability to battle for a National Championship at the NAIA level. BSU would only go 6-6 in ICHA play, but would notch a 16-8 overall record. The Beavers would be invited to the NAIA tournament in St. Paul, MN, where they would be matched up with Boston State in the semifinals. Boston State would put up little fight as the Beavers would cruise to an 11-0 victory. That would set up a Championship match with ICHA rival Lake Superior State, who had defeated the Beavers four times during the regular season. BSU would get sweet revenge as they would win their first National Title with a 5-4 overtime victory over the Lakers. Terry Bergstrom, Terry Burns, Barry Dillion, Bryan Grand and Jim McElmury would be named the first of 80 All-Americans for Bemidji State. History was just getting started for the Beavers.
The following season, the Beavers picked up right where they left off. Going 23-2, with an 11-1 ICHA Championship record, the Beavers were again invited to the NAIA National Championship in Sault St. Marie, MI. In the first round, the Green dispensed of Salem State 14-2 to advance to the title match with Lake Superior State. Even though the Lakers were on home ice, the Beavers were able to take home their second straight title with a 6-2 victory. The 1969-70 season saw the same results with the Beavers again winning the ICHA title with a 24-3 overall record and a third trip to the NAIA Championships. Again in Sault St. Marie, MI, the Beavers took out Gustavus 5-2 before claiming their third NAIA title, again stopping Lake Superior State 7-4. One game of note during the 69-70 season was a Beaver victory of Division I North Dakota 7-5.
1970-71 saw the Beavers win their fourth straight ICHA and NAIA titles. Compiling a 20-7-1 overall record and had the Beavers hosting the National Tournament in Bemidji. Bemidji would thump Augsburg 12-1 in the semis to set up an all ICHA Championship where they would face Lakehead (Ont.). The Beavers protected their home ice with a 6-2 victory. The 1971-72 season saw the Beavers miss their chance at a fifth straight National Title, but they did see two of their own, Jim McElmury and Charlie Brown help Team USA to a Silver Medal at the Sapporo Olympics.
As the 70s continued, the Beavers would continue to make their mark in the NAIA. In 1972-73, the Beavers would again win the ICHA Championship with a 23-6-1 record and again move onto the NAIA Tournament. Hosted in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Beavers would take out Boston State 8-1 and Gustavus 6-3 to set up a Championship match with host Lakehead. The Beavers would take the title with a 3-2 overtime victory. 1973-74 would see the Green and White host the NAIA championship, only to have them fall 4-1 to Lake Superior State in the Championship game. 1974-75 would be the first of only three losing seasons the Beavers would have under the guidance of Coach Peters. The Beavers would return to the 1976 NAIA Tournament, but would only be able to take home fourth place honors, but that would start another string of NAIA tournament appearances. 1977, the Beavers would garner third place honors, 1978 would see them return with second place honors and 1979, they would close out the decade with the NAIA Championship. During the decade of the 1970s, Bemidji would notch an overall 210-77-9 record with four National Titles.
The 80s saw the Beavers pick up right where they left off. Compiling a 24-8record. Once again the Beavers made the 1980 NAIA Tournament in St. Paul, MN. After picking up victories against St. Olaf and Wisconsin-Superior the Beavers were pitted against Michigan-Dearborn, who they dropped 4-3 for the title. The 1980-81 season saw Bemidji enter into a new conference, the newly formed Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA). With teams from Wisconsin-Superior, St. Cloud State, Mankato State, Wisconsin-River Falls and Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the Beavers would go 24-7 and take home NAIA third place honors. In 1981-82, the Beavers would go 25-5-1, win the NCHA title and bring home the NAIA runner-up trophy.
1982-83 saw a new page in the Bemidji State annuals as the Beavers would move from NAIA to NCAA Division II. With RH “Bob” Peters on sabbatical, the Green would not miss a beat as they went 30-6-1 under the guidance of Mike Gibbons. This would earn the Beavers the NCHA title and a bid in the NCAA D-II tournament. After dispensing of Gustavus and Babson (Mass.) in the first two rounds, the Beavers took on RIT in the Championship in Lowell, Mass. The Tigers would be too much for the Green as they would drop Bemidji 4-2 in the Championship game. Little did Bemidji know, something special was about to happen.
1983-84 was one of those seasons that players, coaches and fans can only dream of. With RH “Bob” Peters back behind the bench, the Beavers would rattle off what became a still standing NCAA record, the most victories in an undefeated season with a 31-0 record. The Beavers hosted the 1984 National Championship and defended their home ice defeating Merrimack 6-3 and 8-1 in a two goal, total goal series. BSU senior Joel Otto would be named the Hobey Baker Division II winner and would move onto the NHL. Bemidji was not done though as they would rattle off 11 more wins to start the 1984-85 season and set another still standing NCAA record of 42 straight wins (November 8, 1983-January 1, 1985). Bemidji would again win the NCHA Championship and move onto the NCAA tournament, where they would bring home second place honors.
The decade of the 80s closed out with another National Title in 1986, their ninth in school history. They would also claim fourth place in 1987, third place in 1988 and 1989. The Beavers ran up a record of 251-77-13 record and three National titles while participating in the National Tournament every year.
The decade of the 90s started off down for Beaver fans- at least compared to what they had come accustomed to during the 80s. The 1989-90 season saw the team finish just above .500 with a 15-11-2 record, compiling a 21-6-3 record to conclude the 90-91 season, and a 16-9-5 record in 91-92 and no National Playoff appearances. That would change in 1992-93, when the Beavers would run up a 24-7 record and be invited to host the NCAA D-II Championship where they would take on Mercyhurst (Erie, PA) for the title. BSU would win the two game series by scores of 10-6 and 5-0. 1993-94 found the Beavers back in the title series after going 21-9-3 and traveling to Alabama-Huntsville. In what would be the beginning of a heated rivalry, the Beavers would fall in the first game 5-3, but would win the second game 2-1 to set up a 20 minute mini game for the title. The Beavers and Chargers would be tied at 1-1 after 20 minutes, meaning sudden death overtime would decide the title. Bemidji would tally a goal in overtime and the Beavers would bring home their eleventh National Championship title.
The Beavers never missed a beat going into the 1994-95 season. They would tally a 24-7-2 record on their way to another National Championship appearance. The Beavers would be shipped out to Erie, PA, where they would do battle with Mercyhurst. Two victories later, 6-2 and 5-4, the Beavers were bringing their twelfth National Title back to northern Minnesota. 1995-96 saw another National Title appearance for the Beavers, but this time on the road to Alabama-Huntsville would be too much as the host Chargers would down Bemidji 7-1 and 3-0. The following year, the Beavers would return the favor as they would host the Chargers and tally National Title number thirteen with victories of 3-2 and 4-2. 1997-98 would be the Beavers last appearance in a National Title game as they would again travel to Alabama-Huntsville and fall 6-2 and 5-2 to the host Chargers.
Following the 1997-98 season, the NCAA announced they would no longer sponsor a National Title at the D-II Hockey level. Bemidji had three choices: Drop hockey altogether, compete as a D-II school and not have a National Title to play for, or make the move to D-I hockey. On May 26, 1998, the school announced that it was making the move to Division I hockey starting with the 1998-99 season. The Beavers closed out the decade of the 90s with a 17-13-0 record, going 201-88-21 over the 10 years.
With the start of a new century during the 1999-2000 season, Beaver fans also saw the start of a new conference for Division I Hockey. College
Hockey America was born when Air Force, Alabama-Huntsville, Army, Bemidji State, Findlay, Niagara and Wayne State decided to join forces at
the Division I level. The Beavers would see only their second losing season under RH “Bob” Peters as they would go 13-20-1 on the season. 2000-01 would be Peters’ 35th and final year behind the bench of the Green and White as the Beavers would limp their way to a 4-26-4 record. Peters would finish his career at Bemidji State with an impressive 702-293-49 record, 13 National Titles and 26 National playoff appearances. Peters would not leave college hockey though, as he would serve as the Commissioner of College Hockey America from 2001 to 2008.
With the retirement of RH “Bob” Peters, the Beavers named BSU Alum Tom Serratore as Head Coach to take over behind the bench. The first season for Serratore was written in the books as a losing season as the Beavers notched a 12-18-5 record- this would be the last loosing season in Beaver history. The Beavers would finish with a 14-14-8 record in 2002-03 and reach the CHA Title game, which was the first where the CHA had a NCAA Tournament Berth on the line. The Beavers would be dropped by Wayne State (MI) 3-2 to end their season.
The 2003-04 season saw much of the same as the Beavers ran up a 20-13-3 record and the CHA Championship. They would again reach the CHA Tournament Championship game, but would be upset by Niagara 4-3 in overtime. The Green and White would use that game as a springboard into the 04-05 season as they would again take home the CHA Title with a 23-13-1 record. With the CHA Tournament being held in the Beavers’ backyard in Grand Rapids, MN, they would earn their first NCAA D-I Tournament berth by shutting out Air Force 6-0 and Alabama-Huntsville 3-0. The Beavers would be matched up against number one Denver University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Amherst, MA. The Beavers would give Denver their toughest game on their path to the NCAA Title with a 4-3 OT loss.
Again, Beaver Hockey was alive and well in 2005-06 season. The Beavers again took home the CHA Tournament Title, earning another NCAA Berth. This time the Green and White would draw the University of Wisconsin in an opening round game in Green Bay, WI. The Badgers proved too much for the Beavers as they would shut them out 4-0 on their way to the National Title. BSU would finish the year 20-14-3. 2006-07 would see the Beavers slid back to .500 with a 14-14-1 record and only reach the CHA Semifinals. In 2007-08, they would return to the CHA Title game, but would fall to Niagara University 3-2, finishing the year 17-16-3. Year 2006 also marked the 50th season of intercollegiate competition. In celebration of its past 50 years Bemidji State recognized fifty notable alum in their “50 Legends for 50 Years Team”. The Legends team was established to recognize the top 50 players in the history of a program in celebrating its historic 50th season.
The 2008-09 season could be characterized as a season of ups and downs for the Beavers. Bemidji state would start the season 1-6, with their only win coming over St. Cloud State, their first against the Huskies in the D-I era. The Green would then rattle of seven wins in their next eight to enter the holidays with an 8-7 record. Following another six game losing streak, the Beavers were looking to regroup and finish the season strong. Like all coaches say: “they want their teams to peak at the right time”, and that is exactly what the Beavers did. Going 8-2-1 over their last 11 games, the Beavers brought home the CHA Regular Season Title and the number one seed for the CHA Tournament, which they would host. Following a 4-1 victory over rival Alabama-Huntsville, the Beavers would face Robert Morris, a team coming in as hot as they were at the end of the season. The John Glas Fieldhouse would witness another overtime thriller to add to its history of Championship hockey as the Beavers would notch a 3-2 win over the Colonial. Not only did the Beavers take home the CHA Tournament Championship, but they also took home an autobid to the NCAA Tournament. Seeded number 16 in the 16 team field, the Beavers would draw two seeded Notre Dame in the first round. Playing flawless Beaver Hockey, they would take out the Irish 5-1 in what was written as “the biggest upset in school history for the Irish”. They would then take on Cornell with a berth in the Frozen Four in Washington, DC, on the line. The Beavers would again execute a flawless game plan and take down the Big Red 4-1. In Washington, Bemidji State would draw the Miami Redhawks, who would end Bemidji’s “Cinderella Dream Season” with a heartbreaking 4-1 loss. Bemidji would finish the year with a 20-16-1 overall record, the CHA Regular Season and Tournament Championship and a berth in the Frozen Four. For the first decade of the 21st Century, the Green and White accumulated a 157-164-34 record.
The 2009-10 season will bring a new level of expectation for the Green and White, but with it will come some uncertainty. The Beavers will see the curtain come down on College Hockey America, and with that, a hope that they will be admitted into the WCHA. It will also be the last season at the historic John Glas Fieldhouse for the Beavers as they will have a new home, the Bemidji Regional Events Center, in 2010-11. But you can bet the 55th Beaver Team will play great Beaver Hockey and look to add to the 19 Conference Titles, 29 National Playoff appearances and the 952-465-83 record (exhibitions included) the teams before them have garnered.
The Beavers have had several players over the schools illustrious years make the NHL. Jim McElmury would play with Minnesota, Kansas City and Colorado over a six year career in the 1970s. Gary Sargent would suit up for Los Angeles and Minnesota from 1975 to 1983 and Dale Smedsmo would play with Toronto in 1972-73. Currently, Andrew Murray is with the Columbus Blue Jackets, as he started his NHL career their in 2006. In 2009 former Beaver Alum Matt Climie saw time with the Dallas Stars as goalie (he went 2-1 in his late season call up). It is without question that the most famous Beaver alumni to move up to the NHL is Joel Otto. Signed by the Calgary Flames in 1984 as a free agent, Otto would win the Stanley Cup in 1989 with the Flames. Joel would finally hang up his skates after the 1997-98 season, tallying 508 total points in 943 games.