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WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Beavers host Russian National Team in midweek tuneup

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BEMIDJI — Following a split against Minnesota-Duluth last weekend the Bemidji State women’s hockey team returns to Bemidji for a much-needed break this week.

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Well, sort of.

The Beavers will host the Russian National Team in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. today at the Sanford Center.

“It’s a win-win,” BSU head coach Steve Sertich said of his team’s opportunity to play a team that will be competing in the Olympics next year. “Obviously Team Russia is looking for some good competition while they’re over here, and it gives us an opportunity to let some kids play that normally don’t get a lot of ice time.”

The Beavers (7-7-2 overall, 5-5-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) are fresh off a three-point series against UMD in which they lost Friday night’s game 3-0 before bouncing back to top the Bulldogs 1-0 on Saturday.

Sophomore defenseman Ivana Bilic scored a power-play goal with 15 seconds to go in regulation Saturday to give BSU the win.

“Friday we came out slow and we didn’t have our feet moving,” Bilic said. “Nothing was clicking. Saturday we came out on a much better note.”

Bilic has scored two goals this year — both on the power play — and is one of the main forces behind BSU’s improved man-advantage.

The Beavers’ power play is currently No. 9 in the country at 10-for-53 (18.9 percent) and their combined special teams ranks sixth in the nation.

Sertich said he hopes tonight’s game will give the Beavers a chance to work on their special teams play in a lower-pressure situation that WCHA games.

“Hopefully we’ll get something accomplished on the specialty teams side,” Sertich said.

“We know they’ll be strong and fast. Any time you play a national team it’s tough. They’ve improved a lot over the years. I think they’re maybe creeping into a higher echelon of international hockey with the Swedes and the Finns. They’re investing some time and money into the program now.”

After tonight’s game Sertich said he’s giving the team a few days off before they prepare for next weekend’s WCHA series at Wisconsin.

“I think it’s good mentally to take a breather,” he said. “You hope players take advantage of that. Some are going home for Thanksgiving this weekend.

“It’s kind of a chance at some R&R so you hope they come back refreshed and ready to go, because that’s a big series for us in Madison.”

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on Bemidji State but also covering area high schools. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
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