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Kyle Looft returns home as Bemidji State faces No. 16 Mavericks

This week’s series against Minnesota State marks the Beavers’ first time back inside the Mavericks’ home rink since the controversial, unforgettable CCHA Mason Cup Championship game from last March.

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Bemidji State's Kyle Looft (7) shoots in the first period against Minnesota State on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Kyle Looft will have no shortage of supporters in Mankato this week.

“My whole family's from there,” said the Bemidji State men’s hockey defenseman, a Mankato native. “It'll be fun. My dad, he doesn't want to make me worry about (tickets), so he already bought like 40 of them. So I’ve got enough.”

Looft’s family and friends should represent a sizable portion of the limited BSU fan base invading an otherwise hostile environment at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center. This week’s series against No. 16 Minnesota State marks the Beavers’ first time back inside the Mavericks’ home rink since the controversial, unforgettable CCHA Mason Cup Championship game held there last March.

“It's always in the back of your head,” Looft said. “You want to win that championship, and we didn't get it done. It's our rival. The last few years, they've had our number, they've got the championships. So that's what we're working towards.”

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The potential game-winning goal is reviewed by CCHA officials while Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore and Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings look on after the Mason Cup was awarded prematurely to the Mavericks on Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mankato. The goal was eventually disallowed.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Among others, Minnesota State lost Hobey Baker Award-winning goaltender Dryden McKay and Winnipeg Jets-drafted forward Nathan Smith from last season’s MacNaughton and Mason Cup-winning squad. The 2021-22 iteration of the Mavericks advanced to MSU’s first-ever Division I national championship game, ending its year with a 5-1 loss to Denver.


Despite the departures of those stalwarts, Minnesota State (10-7-1, 7-4-1 CCHA) once again paces the CCHA standings, leading the conference with 23 points in 12 games played. Bemidji State (7-5-4, 5-2-3 CCHA) rests at fourth place in the league table but tops the CCHA in points percentage. The Beavers have picked up 20 points in 10 conference games, a better ratio than any other club.

“You take a look at the standings, even though it's early, there's mass chaos right there,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore mused. “Who's in first, who's in second, who's in third, who's in fourth – there's so many different variables because there's a discrepancy in games.”

None of that will matter, though, if Bemidji State can’t continue compiling points this week against the Mavericks.

“We’re playing our in-state rival, our biggest rival in the league,” Serratore said. “A team that we have so much respect for, a team that’s so well coached and a team that’s dominated our league. … These are obviously big points right now.”

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Bemidji State senior Kyle Looft (7) shoots the puck during the first period against Arizona State on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“We’ve put ourselves in a good position so far,” Looft added. “We've lost some points in tough ways, and we're learning from that. We're working every day to get better. Every team has had some issues at this point that they want to work on, they want to address. I feel like we're doing a good job of that so far, and we're going to build on that.”

The Beavers have been inconsistent early this season, yet they’ve still managed to position themselves well within the CCHA hierarchy. But this series represents a different sort of benchmark – one that will demonstrate whether or not BSU measures up as a true conference contender.

“It's a test for us for sure,” Looft said. “They've led our conference the last few years. So we're going to be put to the test. We're going to show up, we're going to work our hardest and go from there.”

Bemidji State tangles with the Mavericks at 7:07 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 15-16, in Mankato.

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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