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WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Beavers younger, hungrier as they kick off 2022-23 season

Despite losing most of their points leaders from last season, the Beavers like how their bunch has looked in practice heading into the new campaign.

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Bemidji State's Reece Hunt (29) scores in the second period against Ohio State on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI – On paper, Bemidji State women’s hockey loses a lot from its 2021-22 team.

Gone are reliable fifth-year forwards Paige Beebe, Lindsey Featherstone and Lydia Passolt, plus fifth-year goaltender Kerigan Dowhy. Also departed are key senior contributor Graysen Myers and captain Claudia Verkerke.

But despite losing most of their points leaders from last season, the Beavers like how their bunch has looked in practice heading into the new campaign.

“I'm really happy with the way things have gone,” BSU head coach Jim Scanlan said. “The biggest thing is the group has seemed to come together really fast, and the energy that they have brought every day on the ice has been really, really noticeable.”

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Bemidji State's Taylor Nelson (8) shoots the puck in the first period against St. Cloud State on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Such sentiments can be boilerplate this time of year, but Scanlan really means it when he says this group has bonded exceptionally well.

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“It starts with that,” Scanlan said. “But I know how competitive they are. Don't get me wrong. I know how bad they want to win and how bad they want to compete for a championship. And that's what we're going to try to do. We're going to do our best to do just that.”

How will they get there? The Beavers hope to build upon the improvement they made last year. After a 2020-21 season that ended with just two wins, Bemidji State concluded 2021-22 with a mark of 11-20-3 (8-18-2 WCHA).

“We have a bunch of eager girls out there,” senior alternate captain Reece Hunt said. “It's made for really competitive preseason practices.”

Not all has been lost, after all. Hunt led the Beavers with 20 points (7g-13a) last season, and junior Taylor Nelson was fourth on the squad with 13 points (5g-8a).

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The Beavers celebrate after senior Paige Beebe (18) scored an empty-net goal to defeat No. 2 Ohio State 3-2 on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Scanlan has set a goal of clinching home ice in the first round of the conference playoffs, which would necessitate a top-four finish in the eight-team WCHA. That would be the best regular-season finish by BSU since 2015-16 – Scanlan’s second season in charge.

“Success for us (is if) our team is relentless all the time,” Nelson said. “Doing those little things. Back-checking hard, doing good on penalty kills, whatever it is. Being relentless is going to be hard to play against. If we can continue to play that way, I think we'll have a very successful season.”

The Beavers also return goaltender Hannah Hogenson, who established herself as an excellent option in net last season and flashed dominance at times. Her 56-save shutout at Wisconsin helped her earn her WCHA Goaltender of the Month in November, and she was selected to attend the USA Hockey National Goaltending Camp this summer.

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Bemidji State goalie Hannah Hogenson (1) makes a save in the first period against Wisconsin on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at the Sanford Center. (Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer)

“She's had to be in high-pressure situations where we've had to rely on her, and she's pulled through for us,” Nelson said. “It's nice to have her back, and hopefully we can pull some (games) our way.”

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“All those experiences really have set her up for a big year for us,” Scanlan said. “It gives us a lot of confidence knowing that she's done it. She's proven that she can do that in this league.”

The Beavers will drop the puck on the new season against Lindenwood this weekend at the Sanford Center. They’ll host the Lions at 6:01 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, and at 3:01 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24.

“We're excited to get going for real,” Scanlan said.

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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