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WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Bemidji State has confidence after big Wisconsin series

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BEMIDJI – Looking for proof of the unpredictability of WCHA women’s hockey? Look no further than Bemidji State.

After struggling to score in a home sweep by St. Cloud State Nov. 12-13, not many expected the Beavers (2-3-1) to get any points against Wisconsin. On the road. On homecoming. In the Badgers’ brand-new La Bahn Arena.

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But, lo and behold: The Beavers shocked most everyone in the college hockey world with a 1-0 win over Wisconsin Friday night before rallying for a 3-3 tie with the Badgers again Saturday.

“That’s probably the most points we’ve gotten against them in our history,” BSU head coach Steve Sertich said. “It was really fun to open that new arena, especially with us getting the only goal in the game.”

Kristin Huber scored the game winner early in the third period Friday, while three different players scored for BSU Saturday – the first time the Beavers have scored more than two goals this season.

It’s an encouraging sign for BSU, which travels to Ohio State this weekend. The Buckeyes (5-3-0) swept Minnesota-Duluth earlier this season before splitting with North Dakota and dropping two to Minnesota last weekend. They lost all-time leading goal scorer Natalie Spooner to graduation but still have solid top lines.

“I’m glad she’s gone,” Sertich said of Spooner.

“But they have three quality lines and good depth up front, especially two goalies that have played well. They’re off to a good start this year. Other than playing Minnesota last weekend, they’ve had a good start. They’ll be a good team top to bottom.”

Bemidji State also has a pair of goalies that have played well in Abby Ryplanski and Jess Havel, but at the moment it’s Ryplanski who has been getting the starts for BSU.

The sophomore transfer from Niagara is 1-2-1 with a .929 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average. Last weekend in Madison, Wis., she kept the Beavers in both games, making 69 of 72 saves despite the hostile environment.

“I have never played in front of a crowd that big,” Ryplanski said. “It was definitely exciting. I got a little adrenaline rush from it.”

Sertich said Ryplanski has kept the Beavers in all four games she’s started this season.

“She was tremendous,” he said. “Heck, she really played well against St. Cloud here. We felt confident that she could do that at Wisconsin. She kept us in the game. “They had some great chances Friday, and she made the saves. They maybe hit a post or two, too, but both games she was rock solid for us back there. It’s giving our team some confidence.”

The Beavers may have lacked some confidence after the St. Cloud series – especially on offense. They scored just one goal in that series, but last weekend they created numerous chances and scored four goals from four different players.

“It shows some balance,” Sertich said. “We’re not scoring a lot, but we’re getting it from different places. We’re still waiting for the Emily Erickson/Sadie Lundquist line to light it up.

“But it’s great to have some of the younger players come through. We know we have to get some offense from a lot of people right now.”

Lundquist scored the game-tying goal with a minute to play Sunday, with a feed from Erickson and Kaitlyn Tougas. Lundquist and Erickson were BSU’s top returning scorers coming in to the season.

“We just need to hit the net,” said Huber, who scored Friday’s game-winner. “That’s for sure my biggest thing. We just have to find the open spots to score.

“We need to build off where we left off at Wisconsin. Keep it up, keep shooting. Move our feet and beat them to the puck.”

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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.
(218) 333-9772
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