WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Lots on the line for BSU in regular-season finale
BEMIDJI — Even though they won’t get home-ice advantage for the WCHA playoffs, the BSU women’s hockey team still has some work to do if it wants its highest-possible seed in the tournament.
The Beavers go into their final regular-season series at St. Cloud State (7:07 p.m. tonight; 3:07 p.m. Saturday) sitting in sixth place in the league standings. With a total of 24 points, they’re four points behind fifth-place Ohio State and two ahead of seventh-place Minnesota State-Mankato.
BSU (10-19-3, 7-17-2 WCHA) had a chance to sneak into the fifth place spot last weekend by sweeping Ohio State but after beating the Buckeyes 4-1 Friday they fell 3-1 in Saturday’s game.
The fifth seed is still possible for BSU but the Beavers know it’s beyond their control. Instead, they must do the one thing they can control: Sweep St. Cloud.
“I think if we play well this weekend we can have a shot of it but it also depends on what other teams do a little bit,” freshman goaltender Brittni Mowat said. “We can’t rely on anything else. We just have to do what we can do.”
The teams last met in January at the Sanford Center and the split the series, with the Huskies (4-24-4, 3-20-3 WCHA) winning Friday’s game 3-1 before the Beavers came back to win the second game 2-1.
St. Cloud has had a poor season and no matter what the Huskies do, they’re locked into the eighth spot, but BSU head coach Steve Sertich expects a close game from a team he feels shares similarities with his own.
“You look at the stats, and they’re almost exactly like we are other than we’ve been lucky to get a few more points,” Sertich said. “But goals for, goals against are very similar, and they have good goaltending. They’re the same type of team as we are, so it’ll probably be two one-goal games again.”
During the previous series the Beavers outshot the Huskies in both games but St. Cloud goaltender Julie Friend kept her team in both games. She frustrated the Beavers all weekend, making 44 saves Friday and 38 in Saturday’s loss.
Sertich and BSU defenseman Allie Duellman said to beat Friend the Beavers needed to make her move and clog her sight lanes — something the Beavers didn’t do the last time they played.
“We know she’s really good,” Duellman said. “The key to getting goals on her is to get in front of her eyes. We need to try and get lots of tips and rebounds. It might not be a straight shot but when our forwards are crashing the net that makes it easier to score on her.”
“I think it would be nice to get our power play on track, which should give us some better scoring chances,” Sertich said. “BSU’s power play has only scored one goal in the past 13 tries, and not at all in the last five games.
“Five-on-five, we also have to get some lateral movement, some cross ice movement,” Sertich added. “(Friend is) a solid goaltender and if you don’t make her move, or get traffic in front of her she’s, going to make the save.”
Mowat, who made 30 saves in Friday’s win over Ohio State and also became BSU’s freshman record-holder for wins in a season with 10, expects another goaltending duel this weekend in St. Cloud.
“I think we’ve got to score first every game,” she said. “We need to score early on that goalie because she gets confident as the games go on.
“She’s a good goalie, so we have to get a lot of shots on her. And it motivates me to want to play better because I want to be better than her.”
And although the Huskies haven’t scored much they do have a solid top line that consists of Molli Mott, Julia Gilbert and Audrey Hamner. They’ve scored 22 goals this season, led by Mott.
“Mott had 12 goals in the conference,” Sertich said. “For a team that doesn’t score much that’s a lot. Her line with Gilbert and Hamner can put points on the board.”
The Beavers had success offensively against Ohio State and generated more scoring chyances than they did against Minnesota or Minnesota-Duluth. They;ll be looking to keep that up as well.
“We need to get a lot of shots on this goalie,” Duellman said. “Going into the playoffs we want to have momentum on offense, and that’s where it all starts. Getting shots.
“We need to come to play this weekend,” she added. “We want a sweep but we need to be playing at our best coming playoffs so weather we’re fifth or sixth we know we need to do everything in our power to be ready to go for playoffs.”