NCAA DI Men's Hockey

CCHA RinkRap: Lake State On A Roll, Plus Signs Of Life In Bowling Green

CCHA RinkRap: Lake State On A Roll, Plus Signs Of Life In Bowling Green

Lake State is on a roll, Bemidji State continues to struggle in overtime this season and there recently were much-needed signs of life at Bowling Green.

Nov 7, 2023 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA RinkRap: Lake State On A Roll, Plus Signs Of Life In Bowling Green

Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore was restless, lost in thought as he paced under the east stands of Taffy Abel Arena. 

His team had just suffered its third overtime loss of the season, and Serratore wrestled with the whole concept of 3-on-3.

“We don’t overcoach it, maybe we should coach it more,” he said.

Halfway through Friday night’s overtime with Lake State, Serratore sent out three of the best players in the CCHA to take the attacking zone faceoff: Lleyton Roed, Kyle Looft and Eric Pohlkamp. All of press row leaned forward, sensing the kill.

But Laker sophomore Connor Milburn won the draw, then causally exchanged the puck with Jared Wescott, before embarking on a 150-foot jaunt into the Bemidji zone. 

From a steep angle, he let a wrist shot fly, beating Beavers goalie Gaven Enright. 

Sudden death, indeed. Minutes later, Serratore was left to calculate what can, and should, be taught about the art of 3-on-3 play.

“We could have pressured after the faceoff, but we didn’t,” said Serratore, who has been instructing Bemidji players on the finer points of hockey for 23 years. “These are all teaching points.”

But 3-on-3 is almost never part of regulation hockey, and it’s not part of post-season hockey. 

In the regular season, however, playing two men down has a big effect on the standings and the Pairwise rankings, and Serratore’s club has been stung three times in four tries this year. 

Serratore clings to his philosophy that overtime is the players’ time, but with three caveats:

“One is hitting the net,” Serratore said. “The next is, if you don’t like it, bring the puck out into neutral ice. And [3] stay on the defensive side of your man. Other than that, we just let them play. The 3-on-3 is a game of luck, and a game of breaks.” 

Breaks that have not gone the Beavers’ way against Lake State, Duluth and Wisconsin. Games that may come back to haunt the Beavers come March.

Lakers On A Roll

Damon Whitten’s Lakers picked up their fifth win of the young season Saturday night in the Soo, a win total they did not reach until Jan. 28 last season. 

A last-minute tying goal from a crease scramble in Clarkson last weekend kicked off a four-game winning streak for the new-look Lakers, something unimaginable a year ago. 

It requires collective amnesia to forget last season’s 9-25-2 nightmare, and having 11 freshmen helps. One such newcomer is John Herrington, who scored that critical, tying goal in Clarkson.

“It feels good whenever you score, but when it’s late like that, it’s more exciting, for sure,” said Herrington, a British Columbia native who has suited up for every game, picking up three goals and five points in the process. “I knew coming in, there would be opportunities. It’s a lot of fun.”

On Saturday morning, Whitten plucked three players who had been in the street clothes the night before and lumped them together as a speedy fourth line. 

The gamble paid off in spades, as Branden Piku (1-1-2), Luke Levandowski (1-1-2) and Brett Roloson (0-2-2) all delivered, making a persuasive case to get another shot this week against Northern Michigan. 

In the pregame, Whitten predicted a goal for Piku, and assistant Vin Pietrangelo called the shot for Levandowski. 

These youngsters are not charity cases – they made a case for themselves every day in practice and then doubled down in Saturday’s game. Up in the Soo right now, competition is contagious. 

“You get your chance to play, go grab it, don’t let it go.” 

Whitten has made this his mantra, an atmosphere that breeds victories, five to date, making all the preseason pollsters who picked them last to take a fresh look at the resurrection taking place up in the Soo.

Cap Shortage In Houghton

Michigan Tech’s offensive struggles has been so profound this season that it has threatened the Huskies’ chance at an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. 

Then Augustana came to Copper Country, and pucks once again found the back of the net for the men in black. 

A 10-goal weekend, including consecutive hat tricks by Isaac Gordon (Friday) and Ryland Mosley (Saturday), powered Michigan Tech to its first two wins of the season. 

Mosley was all smiles discussing the hatties in the post-game, tipping his own cap to Gordon, who scored four of the team’s first seven goals this weekend.

“He led the way, and it was good to see Gordo score some goals – he can shoot the puck,” Mosley said. “I decided to follow him.” 

Mosley was Tech’s leading scorer a year ago, and getting him untracked allowed all of Husky nation to exhale. His third goal of his natural hat trick Saturday came in overtime, finishing off a much-needed sweep at the MacInnes Center. 

Newsy Notes 

  • MTU coach Joe Shawhan brought yet another esoteric statistic into this weekend’s talking points. Thanks to the 15 players brought into Sioux Falls via the transfer portal, Augustana had 974 cumulative Division I games on its roster Friday night, compared to 630 for the Huskies.

  • Tech freshman Henry Bartle set an unofficial record for ratio of playing time to penalty minutes. Twenty seconds into his first career game, he was whistled for a major penalty and a game misconduct for contact to the head, resulting in 15 penalty minutes. That’s a ratio of 45 minutes in penalties for every minute played.

    Bartle was relieved to dress on Saturday, and he brought the averages down by staying out of the box all night.

  • Over on the Eastern side of the Upper Peninsula, Lake State’s Jared Wescott continued his victory tour within the college hockey ranks.

    Days after being named CCHA Forward of the Month and Forward of the Week, Wescott earned first star in Friday night’s overtime victory, thanks to three primary helpers. He now has 11 points in eight games played this year, thrusting him into the national leaders with his 1.38 ppg average.

  • Saturday night in the Soo, Bemidji’s freshman goalie Raythan Robbins got into a live game a year ahead of schedule.

    With No. 1 Mattias Sholl back in Bemidji nursing a lower body injury, and normally reliable Gavin Enright yanked after giving up three goals on four shots, Robbins was thrust into duty, trial under fire.

    The Anchorage native stopped 16-of-17 LSSU shots, a sparkling .941 save percentage to start his NCAA career.

  • There were signs of life in Bowling Green, as the Falcons picked up a much-needed home win Saturday over Mercyhurst.

    Cole Moore picked up his first career win in goal, and Owen Ozar scored his first career goal. Junior Ryan O’Hara had a three-goal/four-point weekend, as the Falcons slowly return to form.