WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Beavers hope to extend unbeaten streak in Duluth
BEMIDJI — Bemidji State’s four-game unbeaten streak isn’t quite at Minnesota levels just yet — the Beaver women are about 60 games short.
But for BSU players, the current streak is an important milestone. That is to say: After some up-and-down play at points this season the Beavers are finally finding a rhythm in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play.
The Beavers swept Minnesota State Mankato last weekend and, following a five-point series at Ohio State two weeks ago, BSU is sitting in fifth place in the conference standings.
“Those points this weekend were huge,” said junior forward Rachel Kelly, who tallied a pair of goals in last weekend’s sweep. “Coach always says we’ll wish we’d have gotten these points in February. So the six points are huge. Going into this weekend, we have a four-game winning streak and that’s big for us right now.”
The Beavers (6-6-2, 3-4-1-1 WCHA) hope to extend that streak this weekend with a trip down U.S. Highway 2. They’ll take on Minnesota Duluth this weekend in AMSOIL Arena at 7:37 p.m. today and 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
The Bulldogs (6-4-2, 4-4-2-1) swept the season series last year and BSU head coach Steve Sertich said they’re just as talented this season.
“They have one of the top forward lines in our league and (UMD’s Jenna McParland) is a power forward that’s probably as good as any,” Sertich said. “We’ll have our hands full keeping them in check. Hopefully we can keep going offensively, we’ve had some nice goals lately.”
In Friday’s game against MSU, the Beavers and Mavericks were tied at 1-1 with two seconds left in the second period. Kelly’s goal on the power play turned the momentum of the game and proved to be the game-winner in BSU’s 4-1 victory.
On Saturday BSU had big goals from Kelly, Hanna Moher and Kristine Grenier to claw back for a 3-2 victory. In all 12 different Beavers have scored already this season. Moher has seven but nobody else has scored more than four.
Sertich said that balance is one of the main reasons for BSU’s recent success.
“We have a good vibe right now,” Sertich said. “Any time you win that helps, but for the most part everybody’s been real positive. And people are contributing from top to bottom.
“We have kids mucking it in the corners and kids scoring goals. The penalty kill’s been awesome, and (BSU goaltender Brittni Mowat) has been real steady too.”
BSU’s penalty kill is 49-for-56 (87.5 percent) and freshman Mowat’s strong play (2.19 goals against, .923 save percentage) has allowed the Beavers to stay in nearly every game they’ve played this season.
“We know it’s going to be one of those weekends where we have to play well,” Sertich said. “But we’ve learned how to win games. Last year we waited for something to happen but this group goes out and gets it.”
Sertich and Kelly both agreed that this year’s team already looks more confident than last season’s. After all, the Beavers already have as wins (six) than they did all of last season.
“We might not always be the skilled team but we will work hard, play with heart and that’s something that not a lot of teams have like we do,” Kelly said. “In the past years it’s been tough. It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster ride. But this year it seems everyone’s buying into it so far.
“We’re starting to figure out that we can do it. We’ve put ourselves in a great spot. We’re fourth or fifth in the standings right now and we can keep going and bump ourselves up more if we keep playing like we have been.”