Bemidji State women's hockey: Camp Randall Classic more than an outdoor gimmick for Beavers
Bemidji State women's hockey captain Jackie Robertson paused briefly, then started laughing when trying to remember the last time she played a game outside that counted.
"Mites. Mites classic maybe?," Robertson said with a big smile. "We're really excited. it's not everyday you get a chance to pay an outdoor game against a really good team and we're pumped."
The Beavers are on the road in Madison this weekend to face Wisconsin in a key WCHA series. The first game of the series is Saturday at 2 p.m. at the 80,321 seat Camp Randall Stadium in the Culver's Camp Randall Hockey Classic.
The outdoor afternoon game, which also serves as the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Women's Classic, will be played at the home of the Wisconsin football team on an ice sheet frozen at midfield.
"I haven't ever played a game outside but I've practiced outside before," Bemidji State captain Franny Dorr said. "It will be exciting."
Adding to the excitement of the outdoor game for the Beavers is the team's chase for home ice advantage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs - something the team has never accomplished in the 10-year history of the program.
Should BSU accomplish the goal, the Beavers (8-13-7, 7-8-7-3 WCHA) would host a first-round series at the end of the month at John Glas Fieldhouse and it would mark the final hockey games in the historic venue.
"Right now that's the biggest thing for us," Bemidji State captain Erin Cody said. "Hopefully we can pull it off."
Minnesota appears uncatchable at this point and will likely take the WCHA regular season crown with Minnesota-Duluth likely coming in second.
But with one month to play, the Beavers are in a tight race with Wisconsin (15-10-3 overall, 10-9-1-0 WCHA), St. Cloud State and Ohio State for the final two home ice spots. Only three points in the standings separate the four teams.
Bemidji State currently stands alone in fifth place at 24 points, just one point behind the third place tie between Wisconsin and St. Cloud State at 25 points.
BSU and Wisconsin split the earlier meeting between the two teams this year, with the Beavers winning 1-0 in Coleraine before losing 3-1 at John Glas Fieldhouse.
That win in Coleraine was only BSU's second win in program history over the Badgers.
"Our biggest concern is playing head to head with a team ahead of us in the league standings and our number one objective is to get points," Bemidji State head coach Steve Sertich said. "The venue at Camp Randall is just an added plus."
The game will get added exposure with a tape-delay telecast on the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m. The women's game precedes the Wisconsin-Michigan men's hockey game at 5 p.m.
"We're obviously honored to be playing in front of such a large crowd and a television audience - it's great for our team and the University," Sertich said.
Sertich feels the outdoor venue should not pose any added challenges other than minor adjustments to harder ice conditions and playing in fresh air.
But any windburn, like wins, is something the Beavers savor this season after winning just 10 combined games the previous two seasons.
"(This season) honestly has been amazing," Cody said. "We've come so far. My freshman and sophomore year it was a just a battle to get through every week and we never gave up. It's not fun losing that often so we're enjoying every minute."