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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published October 15 2010

Men's hockey: Bemidji State gets its wish

GRAND FORKS – Soon after Bemidji State was accepted into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Tom Serratore asked the league for a big favor.

He requested that the WCHA schedule-makers send North Dakota to Bemidji for the school’s first WCHA contest and the opening of the Bemidji Regional Event Center.

“We respect their program so much,” said Serratore, who is entering his 10th season as head coach of the Beavers. “They came and played us at the John Glas Fieldhouse when we were emerging as a D-I program. I look at those guys as great ambassadors to the game.

“They were the only team we really wanted to open up with. I’m glad that they can share this event with us.”

There’s no doubt that UND had a role in helping the Bemidji State program to this day. It was former Sioux coach Bob Peters who led the Beavers through NAIA, NCAA Division III and NCAA Division II levels before hitting the big time. He will drop a ceremonial first puck tonight.

In 2001, UND became the first national powerhouse to travel to Bemidji to play in a two-game, Division I series. The Sioux made subsequent trips to Bemidji in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

UND also lobbied in support of Bemidji State’s acceptance into the WCHA when it appeared the Beavers had no other conference options.

“They took care of us,” Serratore said.

So, when the WCHA released the 2010-11 schedule, Serratore publicly thanked the league for accommodating Bemidji State’s request.

Tonight, reality sinks in for the Beavers.

They are no longer playing in the $970,000 John Glas Fieldhouse. They are playing in a complex which, in all, cost about $95 million to build.

They are no longer wondering when College Hockey America will collapse. They are playing conference games in the WCHA, college hockey’s most powerful league.

“The buzz in the air,” Serratore said, “and the hype of opening this building is unbelievable. North Dakota being the No. 2-ranked team in the country adds to the excitement level. It enhances the whole weekend and the buildup for the game.”

Schedule of events

Bemidji State is expecting between 300 and 400 alumni in the building tonight. They will introduce players who competed for the Beavers from 1946-69 before the game. Then, Bemidji State will continue its passing-of-the-torch ceremony.

Last season, Jim Emkovik, a captain of the original Bemidji State team in 1946, passed a torch to Beaver captain Chris McKelvie. Tonight, last year’s alternate captain, Kyle Hardwick, will pass a torch to current captain Matt Read.

Business trip

As far as UND is concerned, it will be time to get down to business.

“No. 1, in terms of opening the building and Bemidji entering the WCHA, those are great things,” North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. “I’m happy for their program, Tom Serratore and the university. We opened our building 10 years ago and it was a very exciting weekend. I hope everybody involved has a chance to enjoy that. . . other than our players, our team and our staff. We’re going in there for business. That’s where you draw the line.”

Team bus in accident

UND’s team bus was rear-ended while stopped at a railroad crossing near Erskine, Minn., on Thursday afternoon.

None of the players or coaches were injured. The car appeared totaled, UND sports information director Jayson Hajdu said, but the driver was not seriously injured. He was being checked out by paramedics, though.

According to Hajdu, after learning that the driver of the car was OK, associate coach Cary Eades quipped, “They’ve got to crack down on all this hitting from behind.”

A local school bus driver drove the team on a new bus for the final hour of the trip.


Schlossman writes for

The Grand Forks Herald.