WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers building youthful depth as Senior Day nears
Players like junior Reece Hunt, the team leader with 18 points, sophomore Taylor Nelson (13 points) and freshman Claire Vekich (12 points) have emerged as viable options to lead the Beavers into next season.
BEMIDJI – The Bemidji State women’s hockey team has four fifth-year seniors and three fourth-year seniors this season.
They’ve been some of BSU’s most productive players. Fifth-year Paige Beebe leads the team in goals (eight) and is second in points (15). Fourth-year Graysen Myers has matched Beebe’s point total and ranks third in goals with six.
But below them, players like junior Reece Hunt, the team leader with 18 points, sophomore Taylor Nelson (13 points) and freshman Claire Vekich (12 points) have emerged as viable options to lead the Beavers into next season.
And that day is coming very quickly, as Bemidji State (10-15-3, 7-15-2 WCHA) will celebrate Senior Day this weekend during the Beavers’ final home series against No. 2 Ohio State (22-5, 18-5 WCHA).
“It doesn't really feel like I'm a senior yet,” Myers said. “So I think I'm going to try to keep Senior Night and senior weekend kind of in the back of my mind and focus more on the hockey aspect of it. And kind of just look to do as much damage as we can to Ohio State.”
Despite Myers’ desire to compartmentalize the situation, it’s real for BSU. Luckily, they’ve found some new contributors who are already stepping in and stepping up.
“It's awesome getting to see them improve and see that work that they put in in practices,” Myers said. “And we're able to see it in games. Claire has scored some goals for us. It's obviously helpful to the team when they do better. It allows us to put more pucks in the net or keep them out.”
Myers, who could return for a fifth year, may not be around next season, as she has applied to medical school and awaits the response. But Vekich, Hunt and Nelson will, so it’s a good omen that they have emerged this season.
“The experience that they've all gotten this year is going to help tremendously,” head coach Jim Scanlan said. “When they come back next year, they've already been through it one time. They're going to know exactly what to expect.”
Bemidji State’s veterans have helped show the newcomers how to succeed in college hockey – and their advice hasn’t been limited to on-ice matters.
“One of the biggest things that gets overlooked is the older players really do a good job of showing them how to be a professional,” Scanlan said. “What I mean by that is just how to take care of themselves physically. What they'd go through in their pre-practice routine, getting ready for practice, and just getting that routine on a daily basis. … It goes a long way in terms of their development.”
The youngsters have also undergone a trial by fire in the WCHA. Often the strongest conference in women’s college hockey, the league has taken it to another level this season. The top four teams in this week’s USCHO poll (No. 1 Minnesota, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 4 Minnesota Duluth) are all WCHA members.
“I think that's the first time since I've been here that we've actually seen the top four come from our league,” Scanlan said. “It's just a real testament to, certainly those programs, but also to our league. That's the grind. At this point, by now, everybody's used to it.”
The Beavers get back to the grind this weekend against the Buckeyes at 6:01 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 11, and 3:01 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12, at the Sanford Center.