WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Defense key for Bemidji State this time around against Wisconsin
BEMIDJI — As the BSU women’s hockey team will readily admit, they weren’t as prepared as they should have been last time they played Wisconsin.
The Beavers (9-11-2, 6-9-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) travelled to Madison Dec. 6 and 8 and lost by scores of 7-2 and 5-0.
In the first game the Badgers took a 2-1 first-period lead and the Beavers evened the score just minutes into the second.
“We hung with them for like a period and a half,” BSU defender Alex Ehlert said. “Then it was like, ‘Boom.’ They just exploded and we never recovered.”
The Badgers scored the next 10 goals in the series for the sweep.
Then No. 2-ranked Badgers make the return trip to Bemidji this weekend (2 p.m. today and Saturday) and Ehlert hopes for an improved effort from her team this time around.
“We have to remain consistent for 60 minutes,” she said. “We can’t play just one period and take a half a period off. We need to play 60 minutes.”
One advantage the Beavers have this time around is knowing exactly what they need to beat the Badgers (17-3-2, 13-3-2).
“We’ve already played them twice now so we know how Wisconsin plays,” BSU forward Tess Dusik said. “We know it won’t be easy but we’ll be prepared this time around. We know exactly what we have to do.”
BSU head coach Steve Sertich said improved forechecking and lock-down defense will be key. Last time when the Beavers traveled to Madison, Wis., they had trouble getting the puck out of their zone.
“We’re struggling to score so we have to make sure we don’t give up as many goals as we did last time,” Sertich said. “Maybe we’re a little more conservative on the forecheck. It’s a team that you’ll pay if you make some bad decisions. We have to block a lot more shots against a team like that so we have to have a better sense of urgency on our end.”
Goaltender Brittni Mowat — who has been outstanding in her freshman season — didn’t travel with the Beavers when they travelled to Madison since she was out with mononucleosis. She’ll be ready this time around.
Ehlert said the defense has to block more shots in front of her to keep the Badgers from scoring.
“They got a lot through the last time we went there, so we have to go down and block more,” she said. “Mainly we have to do simple things: getting the puck deep and getting them out of the zone.”
The Beavers, who are currently in fifth-place in the league standings with 20 points, are still looking for a fourth-place league finish and a shot at home-ice advantage for the playoffs. Minnesota-Duluth is currently fourth and has 12 points but BSU has two games-in-hand.
Still, getting past the Bulldogs in the standings weill be a challenge.
‘It’s tougher, but anything’s possible,” Sertich said. “Especially this year in our league. The top teams are still the top teams but I don’t necessarily think they’re dominant like they have been in years past. That said, we know we still have to play really well to get points these next few weeks if we want to be at home.”