WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers working ‘vibe checks’ ahead of playoff series with Wisconsin
LaBahn Arena has been a unique venue in Kerigan Dowhy’s career.
BEMIDJI – LaBahn Arena has been a unique venue in Kerigan Dowhy’s career.
“I remember way back to my freshman year, my first-ever ice time was actually in LaBahn,” Dowhy said. “So that place is kind of a special place in my heart.”
Now, the Bemidji State women’s hockey goaltender is a fifth-year player looking at potentially her final weekend of hockey in a BSU uniform. And in the same place as it commenced, her career may come to an end this weekend at LaBahn, the home of the No. 4 Badgers in Madison, Wis.
This time, it will be in the opening round of the WCHA playoffs, as third-seeded Wisconsin will host the sixth-seeded Beavers.
Ahead of its trip to the vaunted arena, Bemidji State is taking a unique approach to ensure it will be focused come game time on Friday.
“With our team, our focus this year has been on vibe checks, we call them,” Dowhy said. “And it's kind of just, how's the group feeling? What’s the vibe in the locker room when we get there every day?”
So far, the vibes are good this week, with assistant coach Emma Terres imploring the Beavers to remain positive and refrain from the pressure and negativity that can come from facing an elite opponent on the road.
But for BSU’s younger players, the playoff atmosphere is something that may be hard to fully prepare for.
“A lot of pressure can get put on younger girls, especially when they go into a weekend like playoffs, which they have never done yet for college,” Dowhy said. “I think a big thing would just be checking in on younger players as well the rest of the team, kind of asking them how they're doing, if there’s anything that we can do for them.”
From an on-ice perspective, Dowhy and fellow goalie Hannah Hogenson will play an instrumental role if Bemidji State has any hope of springing the upset. Hogenson had her best performance of the year in LaBahn, a 56-save shutout in a 0-0 tie that earned her WCHA Goaltender of the Week honors.
But BSU lost the shootout, then fell 8-1 to the Badgers the next day. And if something similar happens this weekend, the Beavers will be swept by UW and see their season come to an end on Saturday.
“You need outstanding goaltending,” head coach Jim Scanlan said. “But we have goalies that are capable of providing just that. Hannah's done it herself in LaBahn. Kerigan has done it herself there. She's done it in other playoff series and she has the experience of winning on the road in the playoffs. So I feel good about our goaltending. I know that whoever plays is going to give us the type of goaltender we're going to need.”
For Dowhy, it will be her second trip to Madison this season but first as a member of the active roster. In November, she traveled with the team under a special designation while recovering from a grade 2 partial MCL tear.
“They just put me as a video coach, I believe, so I was able to go,” Dowhy said. “But I was really happy to be able to go. Even being injured, it's nice to be part of the team and not to miss out on weekends.”
And now, with family in attendance, she’ll play a crucial role in trying to prolong Bemidji State’s season.
“I was actually really, really bummed that that was the one place that I wasn't able to play at this year,” Dowhy said. “It's pretty special (my family gets) to come out this weekend and finally see what all the fuss is. I have been telling them all these years how cool it is playing there.”
The Beavers battle the Badgers at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25, and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26. If the best-of-three series requires a third game, it will be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27. All games are in Madison.