College men's hockey preview: Minnesota Duluth vs. Bemidji State
No. 5 Minnesota Duluth (1-1) vs. Bemidji State (0-0)
What: Nonconference series
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Sanford Center in Bemidji today/Amsoil Arena on Saturday
Series: The Bulldogs lead 23-15-3 after tying the Beavers in Duluth (1-1) and winning in Bemidji (2-1) last season.
Coaches: Scott Sandelin, in his 18th season at UMD, is 316-285-82; Tom Serratore, in his 17th season at Bemidji State, is 266-256-70.
TV: My9 Saturday
Radio: KDAL-AM 610/KDAL-FM 103.9
Bemidji State update: This weekend's games are the first of 2017-18 for the Beavers, who didn't play any exhibitions this season. Bemidji State is coming off its best season since leaving the now-defunct College Hockey America, going 22-16-3 overall and 20-6-2 in the WCHA to win their first MacNaughton Cup. The Beavers bring back five of their top eight scorers from that squad, but the most important returnee is senior All-American goaltender Michael Bitzer, a finalist for both the Hobey Baker Memorial Award and Mike Richter Award. In 101 career starts, Bitzer has a 1.88 goals-against average, .925 save percentage and 16 shutouts. His 1.71 GAA led the NCAA last year. In five career games against UMD, Bitzer is 3-1-1 with a 1.18 GAA and .959 save percentage.
Quote: "It's a pretty nice insurance policy to have him back there. ... Statistically his body of work over the course of three years has been pretty darn consistent. That's the biggest thing." — Serratore on Bitzer
UMD update: The Bulldogs ended a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) against the Beavers with that 2-1 win in Bemidji a year ago to claim the Blue Ox Trophy, which had been in the Beavers' possession since 2012-13. The Bulldogs are coming off a 1-1 weekend at home in the Ice Breaker last week, beating Minnesota 4-3 in overtime and losing to Michigan Tech 4-3. Both sophomore goaltenders started, with Hunter Shepard of Cohasset making 18 of 21 saves (2.91 GAA, .857 save percentage) against the Gophers for his first collegiate win and Nick Deery stopping 13 of 17 shots (4.03/.765) against the Huskies. Despite Deery's struggles, Sandelin said he'll get another start down the road. No one has won the starting job yet. A year ago, UMD lost back-to-back games just once all season, and has not been swept in a regular-season series since 2015-16 and has avoided being swept in two of the last three seasons.
Quote: "For us, we want to get back into the win column. We want to make sure that we stress that in this program, we try not to lose two games in a row a lot. Last year we didn't do that much and look at the year we had." — Sandelin