View From Bemidji State

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Minnesota hosts in-state rival Bemidji State this weekend in a key WCHA matchup. The surging Beavers have been playing some of the best hockey in the nation during the last few months and will bring a three-game win streak into Mariucci Arena. We talked with Bemidji State beat writer Eric Stromgren about the Beavers.

Stromgren is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer and writes the UpNorth Sports Report blog on the AreaVoices network. He can be followed on Twitter at @estromgren.

GopherSports: Eric, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you give a scouting report on Bemidji State?

Eric Stromgren: The Beavers are on a three-game winning streak after sweeping No. 10 Colorado College in Bemidji at the Sanford Center last weekend by 4-2 and 4-1 scores. It was the second WCHA sweep of the season for BSU and the Beavers are 4-1-1 in the last six games.

BSU is 11-4-2 since a Nov. 20 win against North Dakota and have achieved that mark by playing a defensive brand of hockey. The Beavers are finding ways to score off turnovers and are making the most of opponent's mistakes.

Patience and hard-working are two good ways to describe Bemidji State's playing style. The Beavers will take calculated risks on offense and it's rare to see a BSU player take himself out of a play in the defensive zone.

GS: Who is one player that Minnesota fans should keep an eye on this weekend?

ES: Junior captain Ben Kinne has seven points in the last seven games (2 goals, 5 assists) and the St. Paul native is finding ways to score at key moments.

The former Cretin-Derham Hall standout assisted on last-Saturday's game-winning goal against Colorado College, scored the game-winning goal in a 6-4 road win at Nebraska-Omaha two weeks ago and assisted on a game-winning goal three weeks ago against Minnesota State.

His recent offensive production overshadows his defensive abilities as he matches up against top players on opposing teams. Kinne plays left wing on BSU's top line with versatile centerman Aaron McLeod and playmaker Jordan George.

GS: What does Bemidji State need to do to win at Mariucci?

ES: Bemidji State will win if goalie Dan Bakala is on top of his game.

The senior has turned his game around in the second half of the season after an inconsistent first half. The Calgary native is 6-1-1 in his last seven starts and has 125 saves in the last four games to go with a .939 save percentage.

There are times where BSU has struggled in the defensive zone in recent games and Bakala has bailed the team out with routine and spectacular saves.

Those kind of saves spark BSU and the team feeds off of that energy on both ends of the ice. Bemidji State seems to play at its best in close games this year and Bakala is a big reason why.

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