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WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Former Beavers Havel, Dusik heading to Sweden to play pro

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BEMIDJI — For many women’s hockey players, college is the last chance they have to play a game they love at a high level.

Jessica Havel and Tess Dusik are getting a rare opportunity to keep theirs going.

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The former BSU hockey players have signed contracts with Swedish club Gotenborg HC for the 2014-15 season.

“It’s an awesome opportunity,” said Havel, a goaltender from Grand Rapids who graduated this past season. “We’re excited to get the chance to go over and keep playing hockey. It’ll be a new experience for both of us.”

Havel saw her senior season at BSU derailed by injuries before it even started. She had emergency surgery on the eve of the team’s first game against Lindenwood and never really got back into a groove — she ended up making just six appearances in 2013-14 and had a record of 1-3-0, a .866 save percentage and 4.93 goals against average.

That, she said, was a driving force behind her wanting to keep playing.

“My senior season was kind of disappointing,” she said. “The injury kept me out for the first few weeks then Brittni (Mowat, BSU goalie) was playing so well in goal I didn’t get to see much action.”

Dusik, a forward from Oak Bluff, Manitoba, didn’t miss a game for BSU last season, scoring seven goals and racking up 15 points in her senior season. She also had the desire to keep going.

“As the season winded down I didn’t want to be done playing,” Havel said.

“Tess kind of had the same thoughts so we decided to try and look around for a place to play together.”

There aren’t many professional opportunities for women. There’s a small league in North America consisting mostly of U.S. and Canadian Olympians. The pair figured Europe was their best bet, and made contact with a number of teams in a number of leagues.

BSU head coach Steve Sertich had a few contacts, so did former Beaver All-American goaltender Zuzana Tomcicova, who currently plays for the Moscow Tornado in Russia.

Eventually the coach of Gotenborg HC in Sweden contacted them. The club, which will be in its first year this coming season, was very accommodating — agreeing to pay for their travel expenses, find them apartments and get them part time jobs for some extra cash — so Havel said it was the best fit.

“It’s a new team and they’re really trying to get good women’s players,” she said.

Aside from the two BSU players, Havel said Gotenborg will also be bringing on a player from the University of British Columbia.

According to the team’s website, the club is attempting to be the first top-division women’s hockey club in Gothenburg — a city of 533,260, Sweden’s second-largest. The team won’t play in the top women’s division to start off but that’s the goal.

“It’s not like the WCHA,” Havel said, noting that most women’s hockey in Europe isn’t quite on par with the North American game yet. “Coach Sertich and Zuzka kind of warned us about that a little bit.

“But I think they’re trying to bring more North Americans to try and improve the level of hockey they play over there, so we’re glad to be part of that.”

She also said they talked to Tomcikova about other, more practical things — like how how to figure out all the visa paperwork and how to pack a year of clothes to take overseas.

Havel knows she and Dusik won’t be getting rich playing overseas by any means — both will have to find part-time jobs to make some extra money. But the chance to continue their careers was too good to pass up, especially considering how rare it is for women’s players.

Havel and Dusik will be just the third and fourth BSU women’s hockey alums to play professionally. Aside from Tomcicova in Russia, former Beaver Eva Schwaerzler plays for ZSC Lions in Switzerland.

“We’re just going in next season with the view to having fun playing hockey now,” said Havel, who will leave in mid-August before the season begins in September. “I’m thinking it will be a great experience to be able to go to Europe, get paid to do something we like and do some new things.”

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. 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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