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Bemidji State travels to face upstart Lakers

Bemidji State freshman Ross Armour (17) takes the puck to the net in a game against Alaska earlier this season at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn. (Jillian Gandsey | Forum News Service)

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji State men’s hockey team has warmed up since its outdoor game last Friday, Jan. 18.

The Beavers followed up the chilly 4-3 overtime win with a dominant 3-0 shutout victory Saturday, Jan. 19, to clinch their second Western Collegiate Hockey Association series sweep of the season.

“We have 12 objectives that we want to hit for every game,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “(Saturday) was the first time in a long, long time that I can remember that we hit all 12 objectives.”

This week’s opponent is the WCHA team that has seen its stock rise the highest this season.

After finishing ninth in the league last season and missing the WCHA playoffs as a result, Lake Superior State has rocketed up the standings.

“Lake State might be the hottest team in our league right now,” Serratore said. “Obviously much improved from last year. (They’re a) team that has a lot of talent. They’ve got a veteran group. They’ve got some junior and senior forwards who are putting up big numbers. … They’ve got some defensemen, too. They’ve got a big defensive corps.”

Three Lakers rank in the top 12 in league scoring: seniors Diego Cuglietta (17g-7a--24p, T-4th) and Anthony Nellis (11g-12a--23p, 6th), and junior Max Humitz (9g-12a-21p, T-9th).

LSSU is tied for fourth with Michigan Tech, just one point ahead of BSU, as the three teams contend for the fourth and final home playoff spot.

The Lakers (15-7-2, 10-6-2-0 WCHA), ranked No. 18 in this week’s USCHO.com poll, have one of the best nonconference records in the WCHA with a 4-1-0 mark in non-league action. LSSU also claimed its first Great Lakes Invitational title in Detroit last month and is coming off a 1-0 road win over then-No. 6 Minnesota State.

All those ingredients have the Lakers primed for their first winning season since 2011-12.

“They’ve got a lot of marquee wins this year,” Serratore said. “I’m happy for Lake State, and we’re going into a hornet’s nest.”

The Beavers (12-11-3, 10-7-1-0 WCHA) will square off with Lake Superior State at 6:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 24-25, in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

Armour coming on strong

Freshman center Ross Armour has kicked his game up a notch lately, and that’s earned him playing time on the Beavers’ top line.

The Trail, British Columbia, native has assisted on 12 BSU goals, with 10 of them coming in the last 10 games, including four last weekend that earned him WCHA Rookie of the Week honors.

“I feel like (my game) is just coming along a little bit more,” Armour said. “I’m just getting more comfortable with the league. Making that step from junior to college hockey is obviously different.”

Armour’s 12 assists are the most by any WCHA skater without a goal. That could change soon at the pace he’s playing.

“Ross can score. That part of his game is going to come as well,” Serratore said. “He’s had chances this year. But he’s a pass-first guy though. He’s not a shoot-first guy. But that doesn’t mean he can’t score goals.”

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