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Bemidji State women's hockey: Veteran team opens regular season at Wayne State

Annie Bauerfeld and the BSU women's hockey team open the regular season tonight. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

The Bemidji State women's hockey team opens its regular season this weekend with a road series at Wayne State University.

The Beavers play Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. in Detroit.

"I want us to eliminate our mistakes, play solid in our defensive ends and reduce the amount of scoring opportunities this weekend," Bemidji State head coach Steve Sertich said. "Hopefully we can get the power play going and see some improvement there because that unit will be especially critical in league play."

Bemidji State played Wayne State last season at John Glas Fieldhouse and split the series with BSU winning the first game 3-1 win and losing the last game 6-1.

Bemidji State has practiced at Neilson-Reise Arena over the last two weeks while the finishing touches are put on the Bemidji Regional Event Center and played an exhibition against the Toronto Jr. Aeros there last Friay night.

The Beavers won that game 4-2 behind goals from Kim Leider, Molly Arola, Jamie Hathaway and Lauren Williams.

Goalies Zuzana Tomcikova, Alana McElhinney and Jessica Havel each played a period in the exhibition.

The Beavers return a veteran squad from a team that reached the WCHA Final Face-Off last season with a record of 12-19-7 (9-12-7-3 WCHA).

"It's been a pretty good week in practice," Sertich said. "I would like to see our passing a little more crisp and be in better skating shape. But overall I feel comfortable with our team from where we left off last year."

BSU has a balanced roster with a mix of scoring forwards, experienced defensemen and a world-class goalie.

"We have a good nucleus returning and I think we have some awesome senior leadership," Sertich said. "If we can get the goaltending situation we had last year and get some scoring from some of our younger players, we will be strong."

The strength in the roster starts in net with junior goalie Zuzana Tomcikova, who played in the 2010 Vancouver Olympic games and was named the WCHA Co-Player of the Year after stopping 795 of 848 shots (.938 save percentage) to go with a 2.06 goals against average. She was also nominated for the Patty Kazmaier Award, which recognizes the most outstanding player in Division I women's hockey.

Leading the defensive corps this year will be juniors Montana Vichorek,Marlee Wheelhouse and Erika Wheelhouse.

The trio along with Tomcikova proved tough last season as the 98 goals allowed were the fewest in school history. Vichorek was the high-scoring defenseman with 17 points and Erika Wheelhose, the top scoring freshman, was Beaver Pride's Female Newcomer of the Year.

Familiar names return to the forward position with seniors Annie Bauerfeld, Erin Cody and Erin Johnson likely forming the top line. The trio accounted for almost half of the offensive production last year for the Beavers and will be relied upon again this year.

Emily Erickson, Sadie Lundquist, MacKenzie Thurston and Leider will also be likely contributors to the offense this season.

Sertich said he liked the performance of freshman Tess Dusik over the last week and she could contribute in her first year with the Beavers.

BSU will remain on the road next week and will play at Wisconsin in the opening WCHA series. Sertich expects the caliber of the WCHA to improve this year.

"UMD was last year's national champion and they'll have four Olympians on their team, Minnesota is going to reload, Wisconsin has their Olympians, the Lamoureux twins are ready to play in North Dakota and Ohio State is going to be good - they have one of the top forwards in our league (Natalie Spooner)."

BSU returns the week of Oct. 15-16 to host Mercyhurst in the home-opening series at the BREC.

The Mercyhurst series is the first of five straight weekend home series for BSU. The Oct. 22 game against the Minnesota Whitecaps will be played in Eveleth.