WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Bemidji State ready for Golden Gopher challenges
BEMIDJI — The Minnesota women’s hockey team hasn’t conceded a point in more than a year.
The Golden Gophers, two-time defending national champions and overwhelming No. 1 in the national polls, have won 55 straight games. They’re currently 6-0-0 overall and 4-0-0 in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play.
The Bemidji State Beavers know all too well how difficult it is to beat the Gophers — even if they came oh-so-close to ending that winning streak last season.
Sophomore Hanna Moher, who leads BSU in scoring with three goals and two assists, said despite Minnesota’s dominance the Beavers (3-2-1) have confidence going into this weekend’s WCHA series at the Sanford Center (7 p.m. today, 4 p.m. Saturday).
“I think we have a better feeling after this weekend than we did last weekend against Robert Morris,” Moher said. The Beavers dropped both games to RMU two weeks ago before rallying to sweep away Lindenwood last weekend.
“We know we can take it to Minnesota. Last year we took them to overtime. We’re underdogs, we have nothing to lose so we’re going to give it our all.”
Last season the Gophers scored 18 goals on the Beavers in their first three games against each other.
Not many expected BSU to put up a fight in the fourth game at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
Instead, the Beavers proved everyone wrong. Kaitlyn Tougas scored two goals, goaltender Jessica Havel made 41 saves to force overtime.
The Gophers eventually won, but it was the first time all season any team had taken them past 60 minutes.
BSU head coach Steve Sertich said the key to that game was that the Beavers played lock-down defense and were able to skate with the Gophers.
“You really have to contest every puck,” he said. “You give them time and space and let them do their thing, they’ll blow you right out the back door. We have to be pesky.
“We can skate with them if we skate. If we take shifts off, they’ll make us pay.”
The Beavers also have to find some scoring touch against Minnesota goaltender Amanda Leveille and the rest of the Minnesota defense.
“From top to bottom they have such speed and skill,” Sertich said. “I mean, they replaced an all American goaltender (Noora Raty) with another good goalie (Leveille) who is playing really well this year. They’re just a solid team. They have speed and it’s hard to stay with them for 60 minutes.”
That’s something they were able to do against Lindenwood this weekend.
The Beavers scored nine goals last weekend. In Friday’s 5-0 shutout five different players scored and a total of 11 different players found their names on the scoresheet. On Saturday, the Beavers won 4-1. All four goals were scored by freshmen or sophomores – including two by Moher.
In their first four games the Beavers had scored just five goals total. Moher said it took a little while for the youngsters to get used to the speed of college hockey.
“Everyone is new with new linemates and stuff,” she said. “But finally we got it going in practice, did a little skating, got in better shape and got to know our linemates a little better.
“It’s better to rely on more people than just a few, because if one person has a bad game or something we have a bunch of people who can put the puck away. It’s a good thing that we’re finding it from everybody.”
“I think there is some improvement,” Sertich added. “You look at players who scored on Saturday, they’re all either freshman or sophomores.
So some of the younger kids gaining some confidence. I’d like to think we’re a better team than we were in St. Louis (for the season-opening series at Lindenwood), so I’d say we definitely made some progress.”