Bemidji State battles No. 12 MTU in Serratore’s 800th game, but Huskies hold on
“800 games, that’s one thing you do know – you know exactly what to expect,” Tom Serratore said. “... This is what it’s going to be like for the next month."
BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State men’s hockey team had an opportunity to test itself against one of the top teams in the country on Friday night at the Sanford Center.
Facing No. 12 Michigan Tech in head coach Tom Serratore’s 800th career game, the Beavers were hoping to grasp an upset win and unleash a full-throated home celebration for their head coach. But the Huskies didn’t oblige, scoring in the second period and holding down the fort defensively.
A late empty-netter gave MTU a 2-0 victory and spoiled Serratore’s milestone occasion.
“It was an interesting hockey game,” Serratore said. “There’s a reason they’re (11th) in the PairWise rankings right now. They don’t give up a lot. They’re stingy defensively. Any time that they can get a puck out, they get a puck out. They play smart, they’re well coached and they don’t beat themselves. And that was tonight – they didn’t beat themselves. Any time we had a little push, the puck was out.”
The contest had the unique quirk of no penalties assessed to either team. Thus, the entire matchup came down to even-strength execution.
Michigan Tech (19-7-4, 12-5-4 CCHA) made the first move in the second period, as Jack Works skated from the goal line to the right circle and buried a shot past Mattias Sholl at 6:16. Though the Beavers finished with the advantage in shots on goal (25-18), some of that could be attributed to playing from behind for the final 33:44.
“We played pretty good,” Serratore said. “We had opportunities. We had our share of grade-A’s where we just didn’t convert. Part of it’s not hitting the net, but it was one of those games. That’s what you’re going to get when you’re going to play Tech. (Blake) Pietila is a heck of a goaltender. They’re so strong defensively. They manage the puck extremely well, and that’s what we saw tonight. One was enough tonight.”
Late in the third period, Nick Nardella’s empty-netter at 18:22 ensured BSU (11-11-5, 9-7-3 CCHA) wouldn’t be coming back.
After the final buzzer sounded, Serratore didn't spend any time reflecting on the culmination of his 22-year Bemidji State head coaching career, in which he has compiled a record of 365-338-97. He would have preferred to add to it.
“Nothing. I don’t really reflect back and look back at things,” Serratore said. “I really don’t. I was hoping the 800th game would be a win, but it’s not. I don’t sit there and reflect back, and I don’t think coaches do. You just continually move forward, and you continually think ahead. You’ve got to move forward, just like a player.”
Progressing into the future, Friday’s matchup marked the start of four more weekends of conference play before BSU heads into the CCHA playoffs. Facing teams like Michigan Tech serves as another reminder of what it will take if Bemidji State wants to make noise in the postseason.
“800 games, that’s one thing you do know – you know exactly what to expect,” Serratore said. “... This is what it’s going to be like for the next month. This is what the whole season’s like. Just take a look at the records in our league. Tonight, (four) road teams won. That’s our league.”
MTU’s Pietila stopped 25 shots in net to earn the shutout, while Bemidji State’s Mattias Sholl saved 17.
The Beavers will have another opportunity against the Huskies at 6:07 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4, back at the Sanford Center.
Michigan Tech 2, Bemidji State 0
MTU 0 1 1 -- 2
BSU 0 0 0 -- 0
First period -- No scoring.
Second period -- 1, MTU GOAL, Works (Crespi, Ashbrook), 6:16.
Third period -- 2, MTU GOAL, Nardella (J. Pietila), 18:22, EN.
Saves -- Sholl (BSU) 17; B. Pietila (MTU) 25.