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College men's hockey preview: 2015 North Star College Cup

2015 NORTH STAR COLLEGE CUP

MINNESOTA DULUTH VS. BEMIDJI STATE

What: North Star College Cup semifinal

When: 4 p.m. today

Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul

2014-15 Records: The Bulldogs are 13-8-1 overall and 8-5-1 in the NCHC. Bemidji State is 7-12-3 overall and 5-8-3 in the WCHA.

Rankings: The Bulldogs are ranked No. 7 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls. Bemidji State is unranked.

Series: UMD leads the all-time series 22-11-1. The two teams last met on Feb. 15-16, 2013 as WCHA rivals with the Beavers winning 4-2 and tying the Bulldogs 1-1 to win the traveling Babe the Blue Ox trophy.

Coaches: Scott Sandelin, in his 15th season at Minnesota Duluth, is 260-253-68; Tom Serratore, in his 13th season at Bemidji State, is 218-219-59.

Television: FSN-PLUS

Radio: KZIO-FM 94.1/104.3

Internet: www.94xrocks.com (audio)

Twitter: @mattwellens

Bemidji State update: BSU is participating in the North Star College Cup for the first time after sitting out last season. The Beavers, who sit seventh in the 10-team WCHA, are coming off two losses at Lake Superior State, which is tied for last in the WCHA. BSU, which is 1-8-2 on the road this year, lost in the final second on Friday 1-0 and then fell 4-2 on Saturday. The sweep ended a seven game unbeaten streak for Bemidji (4-0-3). Prior to that, the Beavers had lost seven in a row. Sophomore Nate Arentz leads the Beavers in scoring with seven goals and eight assists for 15 points. His seven goals are tied with sophomore forward Charlie O’Connor’s seven for the team high. Senior defenseman and captain Matt Prapavessis is second in scoring and first on the team in assists with nine, plus five goals for 14 points. Freshman goaltender Michael Bitzer has split time in goal with senior Andrew Walsh this season. Bitzer has started the past six games for BSU and had not allowed a goal in 238 minutes, 22 seconds until LSSU’s last-second game-winner last Friday. In 13 starts, Bitzer has a .909 save percentage and 2.24 goals against average. BSU freshmen Gerry, Leo and Myles Fitzgerald are only the second known set of triplets to play college hockey. Myles has four goals, Gerry has three and Leo has one.

Quote: “I think it’s a great tournament for the players, for the fans and for the alumni. That’s what it’s about. It’s great for everybody in the (Twin Cities) area, and it’s a great road trip for our fans, against teams they know a lot about.” — Serratore to the Bemidji Pioneer

UMD update: UMD finished second in the North Star College Cup last year after beating Minnesota State-Mankato 5-4 in overtime and losing in a shootout to Minnesota in the championship following a 4-4 tie game. The Bulldogs have participated in 34 tournaments in program history — including the IceBreaker earlier this year in South Bend where they finished third — and have only lost back-to-back tournament games once. UMD hasn’t won a tournament title since taking first in the Omaha Stampede in 2001-02. The Bulldogs have defeated three of their four Minnesota brethren this season, going 5-2 against the Gophers, Mavericks and Huskies. Tonight will be the only regular-season meeting between the Beavers and Bulldogs, who didn’t play each other last year. UMD is winless in its last three games with two losses and a tie, but has yet to lose in back-to-back games this season. Friday’s shootout loss to Western Michigan was its first tie of the year and the first time UMD didn’t follow up a loss with a win this season. Sophomore center and leading scorer Dominic Toninato returns from a one-game suspension this weekend after receiving a kneeing major on Friday against Western Michigan. He has a team-high 13 goals, plus six assists for 19 points. His 13 goals rank second in the NCHC. Sophomore center Tony Cameranesi is second on the team in scoring with six goals and a team-high 12 assists for 18 points. Cameranesi is riding a career-high nine-game point streak. He has at least one point in 11 of the Bulldogs’ past 12 games.

Quote: “With this tournament, I don’t think there is ever going to be a weak link. Some teams are going to be better than others year in and year out, but the fact that any team can win this tournament, that’s going to be really good down the road.” — UMD junior defenseman Andy Welinski

MINNESOTA VS. MINNESOTA STATE-MANKAT0

What: North Star College Cup semifinal

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul

2014-15 Records: The Gophers are 11-7-2 overall and 2-2-2 in the Big Ten. Minnesota State-Mankato is 18-4-1 overall and 15-2-1 in the WCHA.

Rankings: The Gophers are ranked No. 17 in the USCHO.com poll and receiving votes in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. The Mavericks are No. 1 in both polls.

Series: The Gophers lead the all-time series with the Mavericks 35-10-6.

Coaches: Don Lucia, in his 16th season at Minnesota, is 383-196-67 and 662-351-96 all-time in 28 seasons; Mike Hastings, in his third season at Minnesota State, is 68-32-5.

Television: FSN-PLUS

Minnesota update: The Gophers are the defending North Star College Cup champions having beaten St. Cloud State in the semifinals last year before beating UMD for the title in a shootout. Minnesota was the No. 1-ranked team in the first six weeks of the USCHO poll before being swept by the Bulldogs in November. Since then, the Gophers have dropped to No. 17 in this week’s USCHO.com poll. Minnesota is 4-4-2 since losing twice to UMD with just two wins in six games since the holiday break. Minnesota is coming off a tie and victory at Wisconsin last week that got it to third in the Big Ten. Minnesota’s power play is still the best in the nation, converting 26.6 percent of the time (21-for-79). Junior defenseman Mike Reilly leads the Gophers in points with four goals and a team-high 19 assists. Sophomore forward Reilly Connor leads the Gophers in goals with 11. Junior goaltender Adam Wilcox has started all 20 games with a .910 save percentage and 2.45 GAA.

Quote: “If you look around the state, there are some pretty good teams in our state. It’s fun. It’s good for the fans. It’s good for the players to play those guys because we grew up playing against each other, so it’s always fun.” — Gophers senior forward Kyle Rau on the North Star College Cup

Minnesota State-Mankato: The Mavericks lost to the Bulldogs 5-4 in overtime in the semifinals and 6-4 to St. Cloud State in the consolation game of last year’s North Star College Cup. They haven’t lost back-to-back games since. The Mavericks, who swept Ferris State on the road a week ago, are unbeaten in their past eight games (7-0-1) and 13-1-1 in its last 15 games, which is why they have soared to No. 1 in the polls, PairWise rankings and the top of the WCHA since splitting with UMD in the second week of the season. The Mavericks are first in the nation in wins (18), winning percentage (.804), power-play goals (25) and goal margin (plus-38), among other categories. Senior forward Matt Leitner leads the Mavs in points with 24 off five goals and a team-high 19 assists. Junior forward Bryce Gervais is second in points with 20 off 13 goals and seven assists. Junior goalie Stephon Williams has started 15 of the Mavs’ 23 games this year, including the last three. He has a .171 GAA and .922 save percentage.

Quote: “There’s a bitter taste in our mouth from last year. We let it slip away from us.” — Mavericks sophomore defenseman Carter Foguth to the Mankato Free Press about last year’s North Star College Cup

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

(218) 723-5317
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