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WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers face Mercyhurst to cap season’s first half

BSU forward Haley Mack (19) fights to keep the puck in a game last January against Mercyhurst at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State women’s hockey team is feeling good after its sweep of St. Cloud State last weekend.

“Any time you can get wins in this league it’s big, and certainly getting two in a row given where we were in relation with St. Cloud,” said head coach Jim Scanlan.

Goaltender Lauren Bench posted consecutive shutouts in the pair of victories, winning by scores of 3-0 and 2-0. Forward Haley Mack also put together a standout weekend, netting a hat trick Friday before adding an empty-netter Saturday to end the series with four goals.

After having been held scoreless for three straight games entering last weekend, BSU was grateful for the sweep.

“I think one thing that gets overlooked is (center) Kiki Radke was out of the lineup those three games that we got beat,” Scanlan said. “And I say that just because when she’s in the lineup, it just completes our lineup a lot better. It really gives us strength in the middle and she plays with such energy.”

The wins boosted the team’s confidence.

“We weren’t trying to go after 50/50 pucks when we didn’t need to,” Bench said. “We were playing like we had a lead when we had a lead instead of just constantly pushing for goals. I think it’s just confidence in knowing that when we have our leads, we can hold them. We’ve just got to play good defense, which we did.”

The sweep earned the Beavers six points and moved them up to fourth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings past idle Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State. The WCHA series was also the last BSU will play until January.

“Just to finish the first half of our WCHA season on a positive is big,” Scanlan said. “We’re going to play everybody again the second half of the year, so there’s certainly opportunities there in terms of getting more points. But at the same time, we know how tough wins are in this league, so to get these two was really big at this time.”

The Beavers will hope to carry that momentum into their nonconference series this weekend against Mercyhurst in Erie, Pa. The series will be the team’s final action until after the holiday break.

The Lakers own a 7-6-2 overall record and 6-2-0 mark against College Hockey America opponents to sit in second place in the league.

BSU encountered Mercyhurst last January when the teams meet in a nonconference series in Bemidji. The Beavers won the first game 2-1 in overtime, and fell by an identical score in regulation a day later.

The Lakers parlayed a CHA tournament title into an NCAA Tournament appearance last season where they took eventual champion Clarkson to overtime in a 2-1 quarterfinal loss.

“A lot of those players are back, so they’re a very solid team,” Scanlan said. “I just watched them on video. They look to be a big team in terms of just physically they’ve got some tall drinks of water on that squad.

“They play a lot of straight line hockey. They’re going to play physical. They’re going to come you. That’s going to be our challenge is to be ready for that type of game.”

At a glance

Who: BSU at Mercyhurst

Where: Erie, Pa.

When: 5 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday

Radio: Beaver Radio Network/1300 AM

Austin Monteith

Austin Monteith is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is an Illinois native and a Butler University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @amonteith92.

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