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WOMEN'S HOCKEY: BSU hosts St. Cloud in 'must-sweep' series

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BEMIDJI -- After splitting with Minnesota State Mankato on the road last weekend and earning just three points, the BSU women's hockey team finds itself in a precarious situation against St. Cloud State this weekend.

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The Beavers (8-10-2 overall, 5-8-1 WCHA), who currently sit in fifth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings with 17 points, would prefer a fourth-place conference finish and a first-round WCHA playoff game at the end of the season.

They're nine points behind fourth place Minnesota-Duluth (26 points) with two games in hand. So while getting into that No. 4 playoff spot will be an uphill climb for BSU, taking six points from the Huskies (3-16-3, 2-12-2 WCHA) is imperative.

"If we want to have a shot at fourth or fifth in the playoffs we need a sweep," BSU head coach Steve Sertich said. "But St. Cloud will have something to say about that; they're hungry too."

The teams drop the puck at 7 p.m. today and 4 p.m. Saturday at the Sanford Center, and despite St. Cloud's poor record -- the Huskies have won just two conference games, against Ohio State and Minnesota State -- Sertich said they're not to be taken lightly.

"They're just like us," he said. "They play two goalies on a regular basis and have one defenseman (Audrey Hanmer) that may be the best offensive defenseman in the league."

Hamner has just six points this season but the Huskies have struggled scoring in general, with just 32 goals in 22 games. Goaltenders Julie Friend and Katie Fitzgerald have split time in net. The Huskies have a league-worst 2.83 goals against average.

Sertich said he's expecting a pair of close games just like last weekend in Mankato. The Beavers lost Saturday's game 2-1 before bouncing back to win Sunday 1-0. Freshman Brittini Mowat started both games in goal for BSU and preserved Sunday's shutrout with 33 saves.

"She played well for someone that hadn't seen a puck for a month," Sertich said. Mowat missed BSU's last series before holiday break at Wisconsin with a case of mononucleosis. "I wasn't sure if she'd have the strength to play two games in a row and she pulled it off."

Mowat, a freshman from Glenboro, Manitoba, is 8-7-2 with a .933 save percentage in 18 games.

"I felt really good against Mankato," she said. "We worked a lot on conditioning (over break) so I think that helped. But I thought we played really well. In the first game mankato got some good bounces and we weren't but overall both games went well."

The Huskies are the only team BSU didn't play in the first half of the season so both teams will be going into the series somewhat blind.

"We haven't played them yet so neither team really has the edge but this is crucial for us," Mowat said. "We need this points to keep pace in the standings."

NOTE: After Saturday afternoon’s game the BSU women’s team will host their “Skate With the Beavers” night. Fans can bring  their own skates and will have the opportunity to get autographs and photos with the team.

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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.
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