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WOMEN’S HOCKEY: BSU looks to jump up in standings

BEMIDJI -- With one last weekend to go in the regular season, the Bemidji State women’s hockey team wants to finish strong.

And although finishing fifth rather than seventh would be ideal for the Beavers, above all they’d prefer to be playing their best hockey as they enter next week’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.

“We need the points,” BSU senior forward Cisely Nelson said. “With everyone else playing we know it’s going to be a battle between us three (teams) for the fifth, sixth and seventh spots. We know what we need to do.”

BSU gets one final tuneup before the playoffs begin when they take on Minnesota State in the final series of the regular season. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. today and 3:07 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Sanford Center.

“The big focus for us is getting that Friday night game,” BSU head coach Jim Scanlan said. “We can’t do anything about those other series, but we’re at home so let’s not think about anything other than Friday, and let’s go out and get those three points. That’s the key. For any chance to move up we have to win games.”

The Beavers (10-17-3, 6-17-3 WCHA) are in seventh place, just four points behind fifth-place St. Cloud State and three points behind sixth-place Ohio State, with two games to play.

BSU had a chance to catch or pass St. Cloud State last weekend but instead split with the Huskies on the road. BSU lost 5-2 on Friday but won Saturday’s game 3-1.

“We went down there with a goal to get six points, so it was disappointing in terms of how Friday’s game turned out,” Scanlan said. “It was another game where we played well enough to get three points, so credit St. Cloud for making plays when they needed to.”

Although the Beavers didn’t get all the points they wanted last weekend, they still turned in two of the better offensive performances they’ve had in months in both games. BSU scored five goals on the weekend -- the most they’ve had in conference play since scoring six on SCSU in November.

“We’ve been struggling this year (offensively),” said Nelson, who scored a goal in Saturday’s win. “Last weekend we switched up the lines a little bit and I think sometimes that helps getting a little spark going for others. Hopefully we can carry it over to this next weekend.”

Kiki Radke, Emily Bergland, Alexis Joyce and Lauren Miller also scored for the Beavers, who outshot the Huskies 36-26 on Friday and 37-31 on Saturday.

“I really liked what we were doing in the offensive zone,” Scanlan said. “We had a lot more zone time, and we talked about moving our feet, moving the puck, and we took advantage of that to some degree but we maybe needed to get more pucks to the net. But overall I like the way we were creating offense.”

This weekend, BSU hosts a Minnesota State team that is 6-23-4 overall and 3-20-3 in the WCHA. Second-year head coach John Harrington has doubled the Mavericks’ overall win total from last year and won three conference games after failing to win one in his first season.

MSU split a series with BSU earlier this season in Mankato and also pulled off a big upset of Minnesota Duluth in December. Last weekend they took two points from Ohio State, winning a shootout and then losing 4-2 the next night in a hard-fought game.

“They’ve been playing good hockey,” Scanlan said of MSU. “They’ve gotten better all year long. John’s done a tremendous job, and they’ve been competitive with whoever they play…. They’re a young team that’s grown a lot.”

BSU to honor six seniors

Before Saturday’s game, the Beavers will honor its seniors for their Senior Day celebration.

Six players will be playing in their final home series this weekend: forwards Miller and Nelson, defenders Madison Hutchinson and Carley Esse, and goaltenders Brittni Mowat and Mackenzie Bruch.

“It’s a special group,” Scanlan said. “I’ve spent three years with them now. All six are just wonderful young ladies who are going to be successful at whatever they decide to do. They’ve meant too much to this program in all the time they’ve been here… there’s going to be a lot of good memories of them and their teammates from the time they were here.”

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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