WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Bemidji State enters home stretch hosting series against Minnesota-Duluth
BEMIDJI — With eight more games remaining in the regular season and 14 points separating the fifth-place BSU women’s hockey team from fourth place Minnesota-Duluth, the Beavers know they need to string together as many wins as possible if they want home-ice advantage in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
As luck would have it the Beavers can gain some direct ground on the Bulldogs this weekend, as BSU hosts UMD at the Sanford Center (7 p.m. today, 4 p.m. Saturday).
The Beavers (9-14-3, 6-12-2-1 WCHA) and the Bulldogs (10-11-5, 9-8-5-3 WCHA) split in their previous series in November in Duluth.
“I don’t think they liked losing to us in their building,” BSU sophomore winger Whitney Wivoda said. “I don’t think we have a great history winning against them, so I’m sure they hated that and will be coming out hard against us.“But we have a chance to get a home bid (in the WCHA playoffs). We have to win some games and stay ahead of Ohio State to inch a little closer, so I think we’ll both be ready to go.”Although the Bulldogs are 14 points — that is, four games — ahead of the Beavers, UMD has played two more conference games than BSU.The Bulldogs also have the more challenging schedule ahead of them — after coming to Bemidji they take on North Dakota and Minnesota.The Beavers travel to top-ranked Minnesota next weekend then play Ohio State and St. Cloud State.If BSU hopes to overtake the Bulldogs in the standings, a sweep this weekend would be nice.And for that to happen, the Beavers will need increased scoring.“We have some players who can score,” BSU head coach Steve Sertich said. “But it’s always tough when you play these teams with great goaltending. Our power play has to score too. But I hope we can build on it. Lately we’ve gotten lots of scoring from a variety of players in a variety of situations.”Last weekend against North Dakota, BSU exploded for three goals in the final eight minutes of Friday’s game.Wivoda scored, as did Rachael Kelly and Kaitlyn Tougas, to help BSU claim a tie and a point. Kelly also scored in Saturday’s game at UND — a 2-1 loss.Duluth was swpet at Wisconsin and hasn’t won in regulation since a sweep of Minnesota State Jan. 10-11. The Beavers expect a battle.“We didn’t get the wins we wanted to so we’re hungry for more goals, more wins and more points,” Kelly said. “They’re a good team, but I think the closer we can get to them the more nervous they will be in the playoffs. So we want to gain on them as much as we can, see if we can overtake them.”NOTE: Saturday is National Girls and Women in Sports Day and BSU is offering tickets to the game against UMD for $1.In addition, several items, such as popcorn and soda, will also be offered for $1 at Sanford Center concession stands.Following the game, BSU players will be available to meet fans and sign autographs.Tickets for the game can be purchased at the Sanford Center Bob Lowth Ford Ticket Window.