BEMIDJI – Three of the four players who share Bemidji State’s team lead in points aren't surprising.
Seniors Emily Erickson, Mackenzie Thurston and Sadie Lundquist have all earned 14 points apiece this season for a team that’s struggled to score goals consistently.
The fourth name, however, has been something of a surprise.
Sophomore Natasha Kostenko is the fourth player tied atop the team leaderboard, and if they way she’s been playing as of late is any indication, she’ll have more than 14 points by the time the season is over.
She scored two of BSU’s three goals in last weekend’s series against Ohio State. The Beavers split the weekend with the Buckeyes, losing Friday’s game 2-1 before taking Saturday’s game by the same score.
The Beavers (6-18-2, 5-16-1-0 WCHA) take on North Dakota (18-10-0, 13-9-0-0) this weekend in Grand Forks. BSU head coach Steve Sertich hopes Kostenko can keep scoring.
“She’s just had a great year,” Sertich said. “I think she’s been one of our more consistent forwards day in and day out.”
The center from Fannystelle, Manitoba, leads the team with nine goals in 26 games. Perhaps most significantly, much of her scoring has taken place recently. She’s scored at least a point in nine BSU’s last 11 games.
That’s corresponded with a recent 3-5 stretch in January and February following a five-game skid in December.
Kostenko said her recent hot streak is all about confidence.
“That’s a big thing,” she said. “Once you start scoring, you start playing really well, you get confidence. Getting a few of those goals in the net helps you keep it up.”
Thurston, who assisted on Kostenko’s goal Saturday, said her linemate was good at scoring gritty goals.
“Natasha really gets those goals that are tough in front of the net,” Thurston said. “We need more of that from everyone, but we’re glad she’s doing it.”
Sertich said it’s because Kostenko isn’t afraid to get dirty and mix it up.
“She gets a lot of blue area goals because she’s not afraid to get her nose in there and get tips and screens and rebounds,” he said. “I don’t know where we’d be without her. She’s one of the few that’s been able to get it in the back of the net for us.”
Power outage ends
Before Saturday’s game, Bemidji State’s two-month-long power play drought was much noted.
It got so bad, Sertich said, that he jokingly suggested a change to the hockey rulebook: Maybe coaches could start declining penalties like they do in football.
The Beavers were 0-for-37 since scoring on a power play against Minnesota-Duluth Dec. 2.
All that changed with Thurston’s goal Saturday. The senior from Ottawa, Ontario, scored on a wrist shot that beat Ohio State goaltender Chelsea Knapp with just over two minutes to play.
“It was a huge relief,” Thurston said. “It was much needed. It took a little longer than we wanted it to but I think the girls on our line worked so hard on that shift. Then they got it to me. It was all on them. All I had to do was shoot.”
“It was so frustrating,” Sertich added. “But it was just a nice wrist shot on net. We talk about it all the time, just giving a chance by getting it on net. Kenzie found a way to get that through and the goaltender didn’t see it.”
The Beavers hope their power play can keep up the good work this weekend against North Dakota. UND has some of the best special teams units in the nation – their penalty kill is No. 9 in the country at 126-for-147 (85.7 percent) while their power play is No. 3 at 37-for-133 (27.8 percent).
Last time the Beavers took on UND, the Lamoureux twins (Monique and Jocelyne) scored six goals in two games. UND won 3-1 and 7-3 – including a six-goal, second-period outburst in the second game.
“The Lam twins, boy, we’ve seen enough of them over the last couple years now,” Sertich said. “They’re special players. They can do things that a lot of people can’t. They can create offense out of nothing.
“We’ll somehow have to be able to hold them down. We’ve never been able to shut them out, but we’ll have to keep them off the board as much as we can.”