BEMIDJI – Jess Havel was glad to get her first colligate start over with.
It didn’t hurt that it also happened to be her first collegiate win.
“I was so excited and nervous at the beginning,” the senior goaltender said. “I hadn’t really played for three years. I’ve been on the bench.”
Havel had been stuck behind two goalies for most of her Bemidji State career: All-American Zuzana Tomcikova and backup Alana McElhinney.
But no more. Havel finally got her chance last Friday against Providence. After giving up two goals to put BSU down 2-0 in the first half of the game, Havel blocked every other shot the Friars sent her way to help the Beavers rally for a 3-2 victory in their season-opening game. Havel made a total of 24 saves on the night, including six in the third period.
Havel said her nerves were calmed quickly Friday despite the Friars getting two past her – one of which occurred when the Beavers were on the power play.
“Normally when I get scored on I just try and shake it off and after the game I’ll look at it,” she said. “So this time I shook it off and the team came back for me. It was awesome.”
Havel, the Grand Rapids native, would like to kill two birds with one stone this weekend: Her first home start and her first WCHA start. The Beavers host St. Cloud State Friday and Saturday in their home (and conference) opening series at the Sanford Center.
“I think we figured out some things we need to work on and what we did well,” Havel said of the Providence series.
“The defense played very well, they blocked shots, and so did the forwards. It was good to get our feet wet and get ready for St. Cloud this week.”
BSU is 1-1-0 after the two-game nonconference series in Rhode Island. Niagara transfer Abby Ryplanski started the second game for BSU but couldn’t notch her first-ever win as a Beaver. She made 21 saves but Providence scored four unanswered goals in the second and third periods for the 5-1 win.
BSU head coach Steve Sertich said the two games were like mirror images of one another.
“It was almost the opposite,” he said. “We got better in that first game as that game went on and took it away from them in the third period. It was the opposite Saturday. We started out well and they took the game from us.”
The Providence series had its ups and downs, but several Beavers gained valuable experience.
Freshman forward Kaitlyn Tougas recorded an assist Friday and a goal Saturday for her first two career points, while junior Alex Ehlert and sophomore Kayleigh Chapman each scored their first career goals. Freshman Megan Lushenko also recorded an assist in her first collegiate game.
That scoring was vital for the Beavers since two of the team’s leading returning scorers – Emily Erickson and Kristin Huber – sat out the opening series due to injury.
“I thought our rookies did a nice job playing in our first games at that level,” Sertich said. “But it will be encouraging to have Erikson and Huber back in the lineup (this week).”
The Huskies come into the Sanford Center this weekend at 0-2-0 after dropping their openers to defending national champions and national No. 1 Minnesota. Still, the Huskies aren’t to be taken lightly.
“In our league, you never know what’s going to happen,” Havel said. “St. Cloud has always been kind of at the bottom, but we’ve got to get ready for them.
“They’re a fast team and I know they have a couple returning forwards that we’ll have to watch out for. Personally I just have to play my game and not get rattled.”
The Huskies were picked to finish eighth out of eight teams in the WCHA this season, after finishing eighth at 4-26-0 in 2011-12. They lost leading goal scorer Brittany Toor but do return sophomore Molli Mott and junior Abby Ness, who were tied for second in points. They also return six seniors.
Sertich expects a battle despite how the Huskies did last season.
“They have great team speed, and they’re very much improved from last year,” he said. “Your first series, there’s always a lot of rawness out there. It was good to get that out of the way. But I told our players, St. Cloud is better than Providence, and it’s a conference series, so we’ve got to be quicker and move the puck and pass better than we did last week.”
The puck drops at 7:07 p.m. Friday before a 3:07 p.m. start Saturday.