BEMIDJI -- There’s one word to describe how the Bemidji State men’s and women’s hockey teams have felt lately: frustrated.
Both Beaver teams have been out of action for most of the last two weeks, and that will continue to be the case this weekend. Games at Northern Michigan for the men, and at home against Minnesota State for the women, have been called off due to COVID-19 issues.
“I’d be lying to you to sit there and say there wasn’t frustration,” men’s coach Tom Serratore said. “You just have to try to stay focused. … We are lucky. It’s crazy times for everybody.”
Although the men have one game under their belts, the women are still waiting to play their first contest.
“It’s tough. I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” added women’s coach Jim Scanlan. “To piggyback on what Tom was saying, it’s frustrating. It can be depressing.
“But I told the team last week that we just have to choose to be grateful that we even have an opportunity to play. There are eight or nine programs that aren’t playing at all.”
The men’s nonconference series was canceled due to COVID-19 test results within the NMU program.
Meanwhile, the women’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association series was postponed because of COVID-19 cases within the BSU program that have placed the team on a “pause,” Scanlan said. The BSU women would not have been able to meet the roster minimum to play this weekend due to COVID-19 protocols.
“We’ve just happened to have a couple of cases and it’s caused our entire team to have to go into quarantine,” Scanlan said. “We’re going to get an opportunity (to play) coming up and we just have to do everything we can to give ourselves that chance.”
About six or seven players were cleared to practice this week, while others remain in quarantine, Scanlan said. He’s hopeful most of the quarantined players will be able to return to practice Friday.
“Friday we’re going to get the vast majority of them (back), and then Saturday we’ll get the remaining group that’s in quarantine,” Scanlan said. “We’ll try to put as many quality practices together as we can before we play next Thursday.”
In the meantime, the BSU women have been doing Zoom meetings to keep the team engaged while apart.
“The team itself has done a really good job of staying connected,” Scanlan said. “Our senior groups have been outstanding in that regard, making sure that everybody’s checking up on each other and looking after each other because quarantine can be obviously a pretty lonely experience.”
With most of the team away from the ice, players have spent more time considering the mental aspect of hockey.
“Like how the coaches can help us to recognize our mistakes on the ice, and be able to help us overcome frustration and be the best that we can mentally,” said senior forward Clair DeGeorge. “In the hockey world in general, often the mental game gets put to the side and you’re more focused on (the physical game). Your mind has so much to do with it, so we’ve been able to work on that a lot lately, which has been awesome.”
For the men, they’ve had the fortune to use practice as an escape from the stresses of the world outside their home in the Sanford Center.
“The whole state is shut down. The town is shut down. The saving grace is coming on the ice for practice,” Serratore said.
Since their season opener on Nov. 22, a 5-0 loss to Minnesota State, the Beaver men have done their best to avoid the monotony that can set in when your next game is weeks away.
“We’ve had a lot of variety to our practices,” Serratore said. “That’s the best thing that we can do right now.”
The programs will hope to return to game action next week when the Sanford Center is scheduled to host four games in four days. The women are slated to open the season against St. Cloud State in a Thursday/Friday series Dec. 10-11, while the men host Michigan Tech in a nonconference set Dec. 12-13.