Bemidji looks to extend its unbeaten streak in Omaha

Nebraska Omaha defenseman Andrej Sustr (left) has two goals so far in the 2012-13 season. The Maverick blueliners, between them, have scored six of the team’s 13 goals so far. (Photo credit: Matthew Semisch)

Whenever the time comes again to write a series preview for Nebraska Omaha and Bemidji State, it always feels as though I’m playing a broken record.

UNO didn’t have much success at home against the Beavers last time around. Are the Mavericks due?

UNO didn’t have much success at home against the Beavers last time around. Are the Mavericks due?

UNO didn’t…

Seriously. Milli Vanilli didn’t have this much trouble.

The fact is, though, that it’s happening again this weekend. Bemidji State (1-1-0) meets UNO (2-2-0) Friday night at CenturyLInk Center in the first WCHA game of the season for both teams, and the hosts will feel as though it’s finally time for them to turn the Beavers over on the Mavericks’ own ice.

BSU has enjoyed a remarkable hold on the Mavericks, and especially when playing in Omaha. UNO only has one win at Bemidji, Minn.’s Sanford Center , a 5-1 win 11 months ago, but the Beavers are unbeaten (4-0-2) in their last six games in Omaha.

Part of that success was down to superb play from the now-departed goaltender Dan Bakala, but the Beavers are doing just fine thus far without him. Sophomore netminder Andrew Walsh has picked up where Bakala left off, and he earned WCHA defensive player of the week honors last time out after stopping 63 of 64 last weekend at home against non-conference foe Lake Superior State.

BSU didn’t have it all its way against the Lakers, but they finished the two-game set on a high. The Beavers dropped a 2-0 decision to Lake State on Oct. 19, but they responded well the following night, riding three third-period goals en route to a 5-0 drubbing of the visitors.

Junior forward Radoslav Illo starred in the win, picking up a goal and an assist. His two points after two games leaves him clear at the top of the BSU scoring chart, which isn’t surprising considering he’s coming off a solid sophomore campaign in which he picked up seven goals and 10 assists.

This weekend’s series, however, is likely to be one in which goals could come at a premium. BSU head coach Tom Serratore’s club likes to play a very defensive style against the Mavericks – and it’s certainly worked in the past – and the Beavers are playing this weekend against a UNO team whose defensemen are responsible for nearly half (6 of 13) of the team’s goals thus far this season.

Factor in also the Beavers’ solid defensive performance last weekend against Lake Superior State, and the fact that UNO has gone 14-for-15 on the penalty kill thus far this season, and it looks less and less as though fans will be in for a pair of goal-fests.

Leading the way for the Maverick blueliners are juniors Michael Young and Andrej Sustr. Young and Sustr both have two goals to their names thus far this season – Freshman Nick Seeler and senior Bryce Aneloski are the other UNO defensemen that have scored in the Mavericks’ first four games of the new campaign.

Up front, junior forward Brock Montpetit has been a revelation for UNO so far in his third year in Omaha. The Somerset, Wis. native had a difficult sophomore season, but he has been phenomenal so far this time, splitting time on head coach Dean Blais’s first and second lines and contributing a goal and four assists to the cause.

Expect to see two UNO goalies split time again this weekend in the Maverick net. Senior John Faulkner is 2-0 in his two Friday starts this season – including a 5-2 win over No. 17 Northern Michigan on Oct. 19 – and, though freshman Anthony Stolarz lost in his first two appearances for the Mavericks, it certainly hasn’t been down to lack of effort.

UNO’s next home series following the set against Bemidji will come in the second week of November, when the Mavericks will host Minnesota Duluth Nov. 10-11.

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