WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Bumpy road gets tougher for BSU as they travel to No. 3 UND
BEMIDJI -- Another weekend, another top-five opponent for the BSU women's hockey team.
After a sweep at the hands of No. 2 Wisconsin last weekend at the Sanford Center the Beavers travel to Grand Forks, N.D., this weekend for another series against a ranked opponent in No. 3 North Dakota.
"They're both great teams," BSU junior forward Alex Citrowske said of facing the No. 2 and No. 3-ranked teams on successive weekends. "They're both really fast teams and both at the top of the leaderboard statistically.
"It'll be tough but right now we're just looking for points however we can get them. We just need to find a way to get something."
The Beavers (9-13-2, 5-9-0 WCHA) currently find themselves in fifth place in the WCHA standings with 20 points -- 15 behind fourth-place Minnesota-Duluth.
If BSU hopes to pull itself into the first half of the league standings at season's ends, the team needs to find a way to power through this month-long stretch against all four teams ahead of them in the standings -- after UND this week the Beavers host UMD before traveling to No. 1 Minnesota.
"Playoffs is a month away," BSU head coach Steve Sertich said. "We're glad we get to play against the top teams now to see if we get better. It all depends on what you do in February, really."
It might be tough to go 6-0-0 the rest of the way but even surviving to pick up a point here and two points there will benefit BSU at season's end.
"We have to make sure we contest every puck in our end," Sertich said when asked what the Beavers have to do to hand with North Dakota. "We want to make life difficult for them.
"If we can make it close going into the third, if we can be even with them or within a goal, anything can happen. It's kind of how we've beaten teams in the past."
The Beavers have been struggling to score lately -- they've scored 1.71 goals per game this year, second-to-last in the league ahead of only St. Cloud State -- while North Dakota (15-5-2, 12-4-2) has scored more than 3.18 goals.
But, perhaps luckily this weekend for BSU, UND's top scoring weapons won't be playing.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, Michelle Karvinen (UND's leading goalscorer) and Susanna Tapani (7g-12-a-19pts) won't be playing due to commitments with the Finnish National Olympic team.
Meghan Dufault (8g-11a-19pts) and Leah Jensen are also gametime decisions due to injury.
Sertich said the goal this weekend is to keep UND off the power play. He thought the Beavers played well at even strength last weekend against Wisconsin save one poor period (the Badgers' four-goal second in their 6-0 win Friday).
"I thought we played hard but didn't play smart on friday," he said. "We had a pretty good second period but came out of it down four, and it was mainly because we pinched when we shouldn't have pinched and we gave up some odd-man rushes against a pretty good team."
On Saturday BSU didn't give up an even-strength goal in its 3-1 loss. The Badgers scored on the power play, shorthanded and got a late empty-netter.
Brittni Mowat made 28 saves and gave up two goals while Citrowske scored BSU's lone goal on the weekend -- her third of the season.
"We were careless against Wisconsin," Sertich said. "We can't be careless against these top teams. We know they'll be in our end a lot. We have to defend and stay out of the box and block shots. If we do that we can make it interesting.
NOTE: Friday's game, set for 7:07 p.m. at Ralph Engelstad Arena, is set to be televised on Midcontinent Communications' Midco Sports Network.
Bemidji-area subscribers to Midcontinent can find the game on channel 26 in standard definition and on channel 622 in high definition.
Saturday's game, scheduled to begin at 7:07 p.m., is not scheduled for any television broadcast.