Bemidji State women's hockey team travels to Ohio State for critical midseason series
The Bemidji State women's hockey team heads to Columbus for a crucial Western Collegiate Hockey Association series against Ohio State.
The series is big for both teams trying to position for a first-round WCHA home playoff series at the end of February.
The series opens Friday at 6:07 p.m. and concludes Saturday at 1:07 p.m.
Bemidji State (7-11-6 overall, 6-6-6-3 WCHA) is quietly putting together a strong season and is tied for third place in the WCHA standings with Wisconsin at 21 points; four points behind second place Minnesota-Duluth.
Ohio State (11-9-4 overall, 8-8-2 WCHA) is looking to make a move up and are alone in fifth place with 18 points.
That's what makes this series so critical for Bemidji State.
Since the top four teams in the WCHA host a first-round playoff series, any points gained by BSU this weekend will likely come in handy at the end of the year.
Additionally, Bemidji State will lose the services of Slovakian goalie Zuzana Tomcikova for the next month when she leaves for the Vancouver Olympic Games following this weekend's series.
Tomcikova has been a big reason for Bemidji State's success this season as she has an outstanding .941 save percentage and 1.97 goals against average. Her save percentage ranks fifth in the country and she has the third most saves (633) in the country.
While the loss of Tomcikova should not crush the Beavers, there will likely be an adjustment period. Backup Alana McElhinney will step in for BSU when Tomcikova was gone.
With so many players from the WCHA competing in the Olympics, BSU will not be alone in the challenge.
Adversity is nothing new for the Beavers, who are competitive in the heart of the conference season despite the loss of Erin Johnson, who suffered an arm injury in practice prior to last weekend's series with No. 2 Minnesota.
She accounts for 10 of BSU's 42 goals this season and there is no immediate timetable for her return. Erin Cody is the only BSU player with more than 10 goals this season (12).
Without Johnson the Beavers put together one of their best series together last weekend against the Gophers at John Glas Fieldhouse. BSU tied both games 1-1 before losing the shootouts in four and six rounds.
In the Friday game, Emily Erickson was the hero by scoring with 16 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
The Beavers were recognized for their success by earning one vote in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. It marks the first time in the 11-year history of the program that the Beavers have been mentioned in a national hockey poll.
The Beavers have not lost since a 4-1 defeat to Minnesota-Duluth on Dec. 12 and are 1-0-4 in the last five games. BSU has only one shootout win in that span, but the points in the tie have been valuable.
Bemidji State will go up against an Ohio State team that is 5-2-1 in its last eight games and are coming off a weekend road sweep at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
In the previous meeting with the Buckeyes this season, BSU lost to Ohio State 5-3 before winning the shootout behind McElhinney's performance in net.
The Beavers will be looking for their first win in Columbus since January of 2007.