WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Beavers look to come home for Final Face-Off
BEMIDJI — The BSU women’s hockey team has understandably posessive reasons for why it wants to beat North Dakota in their Western Collegiate Hockey Association first-round playoff series this weekend.
“Well if we lose another team would have to have our locker room, which would be disappointing,” BSU senior defenseman Danielle Williams said. “We’d rather extend our season and keep playing here.”
The Sanford Center is hosting the WCHA Final Face-Off for the first-time ever this season. The Beavers would rather be a part of it than watch from the stands.
“You hope that’s a motivation for them,” BSU head coach Steve Sertich said. “I know it is for me but i don’t get to play. It’s a big event, the first time ever.
“We’d like to take part in it. But we have to pull out a couple big games in North Dakota.”
BSU finished the regular season 11-19-4 overall and missed out on hosting a first-round playoff series, so now the Beavers have one last chance to play in front of Bemidji fans — by beating UND in Grand Forks. Game one of the series is today at 7:07 p.m. Game two is Saturday and game three, if necessary, will be Sunday, all at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The Beavers have played UND in the playoffs two out of the last three years, this will be the third in four.
This season UND (17-11-4) ended the regular season on a four-game losing streak after being swept by Minnesota State and Ohio State.
“We’re hoping the third time’s a charm,” Williams said. “Maybe we can take advantage of the losing streak they’re on.”
BSU played UND four times this season and earned one point — the teams tied 1-1 Jan. 24 in Grand Forks but the Beavers lost the shootout. UND won 2-1 the next day.
This time around UND will have three Olympians it didn’t have the last time around — including forward Michelle Karvinen, who was named the top forward at the Sochi games.
“She’s obviously one of the top players in our league,” Sertich said. “They have some skilled offensive players.”
BSU is coming off a five-point weekend at St. Cloud State in which they tied Friday’s game — then won the shootout on a Rachael Kelly goal — before getting a 3-0 shutout Saturday behind senior Jessica Havel’s 39 saves and goals from Williams, Stephanie Anderson and Kaitlyn Tougas.
Sertich said this weekend the Beavers need to watch out for UND’s speed and try and duplicate what they did during their series in January — play a complete 60 minutes.
“We’re going to have to play smart and tough defensively,” he said. “We have to improve on our forecheck. I’ve been disappointed about how bad it’s gotten lately, as far as individually and as a group. We have to tighten up because they’re a very good offensive team.
“We also have to be tougher in our end. We have to play 60 minutes. You play a team like this, you can’t take shifts off.”