Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore paid one compliment after another on Tuesday when discussing the Gophers, the team his team plays this weekend at Sanford Center in Bemidji.
"They have a lot of offense," he said. "Take a look up front, they have [Erik] Haula, they have [Nick] Bjugstad, they have [Nate] Condon. Take a look at their back line, they have Nate Schmidt, who is extremely dangerous. He has a great shot and they have two highly skilled skilled defensemen in Mike Reilly and Ben Marshall and they have a lot more offensive depth.
"But they are also very good defensively," Serratore said, also mentioning goalie Adam Wilcox's good numbers.
"They just got a lot of weapons and they want to play good hockey going into the playoffs -- as we do."
Which the Beavers have managed to do recently.
"We have taken points the last three weekends, which is pretty good," Serratore said. "Look at the teams we have beat and tied, they are pretty good."
Here is how BSU has fared lately:
Feb. 8-9, at Wis, T 2-2, L 3-2
Feb. 15-16, UMD, W 4-2, T 1-1
Mar. 1-2, at UND, L 4-2, T 2-2
"You want to get points every weekend in this league," Serratore said, "and that's the one thing we have neglected to do this year. If you get points every weekend, you are going to be competing for home ice."
Of, in the Gophers' case, the WCHA regular-season title. The Gophers have only swept one WCHA this series, but are tied for second in the WCHA with North Dakota. Both have 33 points, two behind first-place St. Cloud State.
"The Denver series before Christmas and our North Dakota series last weekend were the best series we played this season," Serratore said. "We had scoring chances, we were tremendous defensively. We blocked a lot of shots, we got goaltending. We were playing playoff hockey, which is a positive to me."
And this weekend could be a preview of the first playoff series for Bemidji State and the Gophers. Except the site would be different: Mariucci.
"Very easily, we could see Minnesota," Serratore said. "This could be a three out of five series right now."
As of today, the Gophers would be the second seed and BSU the 11th seed, meaning they would meet in the first round, but the standings can change a lot. The Gophers could finish anywere from first to sixth. BSU could be seeded from ninth to 11th.
"Chances are we are going to be 11th," Serratore said. "We just want to he playing good hockey. [And] we have to get to that magic number of three [goals] and you have to get some power-play goals."
Sophomore goalie Andrew Walsh has been playing well for BSU. "Walshy saw the puck very well last weekend," Serratore said. "He was confident. He saw the puck, he competed, he handled the puck. There was lot different aspects of his game that were very good."
Bemidji is a senior-dominated team, with 10 on the roster. So this will be an emotional weekend for them, playing their last series at home.
"It has been a tough year for these guys," Serratore said.
But he said the seniors have a lot to be proud of. They made the NCAA tournament as freshman with an at-large bid. As sophomores, they played in the Final Five in the Beavers first season in the WCHA.
"Last year we were a game under .500," Serratore said. "We had 25 points in the league. We were one win from [having] home ice in the playoffs. ... It is going to be tough to see those guys leave."