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COLLEGE HOCKEY: Bemidji State rings in 2019 at Bowling Green

BSU freshman Nick Cardelli (26) fires a shot toward the Merrimack goal during a November 2018 game at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Forum News Service)

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Another week, another time zone for the Bemidji State men’s hockey team.

After closing 2018 last weekend in Colorado with a nonconference series at Air Force, the Beavers will ring in 2019 in Ohio with a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at Bowling Green.

The Beavers landed in Detroit early Wednesday morning, Jan. 2, and drove to Bowling Green, arriving around 2 a.m.

“It’s a grind,” said head coach Tom Serratore. “... It was a tough travel day, but we got through it. We had practice today and now we’ve got to play tomorrow. That’s just life on the road.”

With its 1,000-mile journey out of the way, Bemidji State will resume league play with this week’s Thursday-Friday series against another team dubbed the Falcons.

Bowling Green (13-3-3, 8-2-2-2 WCHA) currently sits second in the conference, just one point back of Michigan Tech.

The Falcons defeated the University of Windsor in a exhibition last Sunday, but they’ll be facing the fifth-place Beavers (8-9-3, 6-5-1-0 WCHA) in their first regular season action since a home sweep of Minnesota State, Dec. 14-15. That sweep lifted BGSU into the No. 8 spot in the PairWise rankings, putting them ahead of No. 12 MSU for the best ranking among WCHA squads.

“They’re the best team in our league right now,” Serratore said. “They’re kind of a throwback team. They’re old, they’ve got experience and they’re very physical.”

Coming off a Saturday-Sunday series, BSU will only have three days off before tonight’s series opener at 6:37 p.m. That short turnaround shouldn’t pose any problem, Serratore said.

“These guys played junior hockey so they’ve played three in three, they’ve played five games in eight days,” said the coach. “The biggest thing is you’ve got to eat well, you’ve got to stay hydrated and you’ve got to rest. That’s all. The biggest thing is is that they’re not in school right now. They’ve got a little time on their hands to worry about hockey.”

Looking back at Air Force

BSU began the season’s second half with a 3-3 tie and 6-3 loss to Air Force last weekend.

The Beavers came within a video review of winning Saturday’s game, but Tommy Muck’s overtime goal was overturned due to too many men on the ice.

“We played better on (Saturday),” Serratore said. “We scored in overtime, but we had one of those sloppy line changes and that new rule you can challenge too many men. You have to be within five feet on a line change and they nullified the goal.”

BSU trailed Air Force by two goals Sunday night, but twice fought back to tie the game in the second period, the second time at 3-3. Ultimately, the Falcons scored three unanswered goals and goalie Billy Christopoulos held the Beavers scoreless in the third period to come away with the win.

“We just were chasing the game too much,” Serratore said. “We kept answering the bell, but eventually we just had a couple mistakes and they scored. And their goalie played really well. We out-chanced them. We had a lot of good scoring chances, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

Driscoll to start Thursday

Zach Driscoll is slated to make his first start in net since a 4-2 loss to Alabama Huntsville on Dec. 8.

Hank Johnson has started the four games since, but was removed from Sunday’s contest after allowing his fourth goal. Driscoll entered and conceded one goal in 26 minutes, 47 seconds of relief.

The two netminders had alternated starts prior to Johnson’s four-game run as the starter.

“We’ve got to try to get some consistency at that position right now,” Serratore said. “And Hank played pretty good, but we just felt that on Sunday night we needed a save at the right time, and at one time there was four goals on 13 shots. There’s not much he could do, but you’ve got to make some of those saves that maybe you’re not supposed to and their guy did.”

Serratore said he will wait until after tonight’s game to decide who will start Friday. Thursday will mark the first time Driscoll has started the first game of a series.