WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers resume WCHA play against UMD
BEMIDJI -- This weekend’s series could go along towards attaining playoff home ice for the Bemidji State women’s hockey team.
The Beavers (7-13-1, 4-7-1-0 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) will host Minnesota Duluth at the Sanford Center this weekend with a chance to catch the fourth-place Bulldogs (7-9-2, 4-6-2-2 WCHA) in the standings. BSU trails UMD by three points for the final WCHA home-ice playoff spot.
Sporting a 6-3-1 home record and a six-game home win streak, the Beavers hope that will put them a leg up.
“It’s a big series,” said head coach Jim Scanlan. “It’s the first conference series of the new year. I just think it gives our group added confidence going into it, the fact that we’ve been playing extremely well at home.”
The teams met previously in October at Duluth where the Bulldogs came away with a pair of wins by scores of 6-1 and 2-0.
“There’s just a very talented group of freshmen that they have,” Scanlan said on what he learned from the first series. “Their forward group is really good. Obviously with Maddie Rooney in goal it allows them to play with a lot of freedom knowing that they have such a good goalie on the back end.”
Rooney sat out last season and backstopped the U.S. women’s team to Olympic gold. The Beavers are going to treat the redshirt junior like any other goalie.
“Every goalie is going to give out a rebound,” said junior Heather Olson. “We just have to be aggressive at the net, definitely make her work…. She is just another goalie in the net. That’s what we have to look at it as.”
Rooney’s numbers aren’t quite what they were in 2016-17, her most recent college season, when she finished second in the WCHA in goals against average (1.65) and save percentage (.942). She currently ranks eighth in the league in both GAA (2.73) and save percentage (.918).
A challenging schedule and a young defensive corps has had some something to do with that, Scanlan said.
“A couple years ago she had some really solid veteran defensemen that were out there with her,” Scanlan said. “Now, she’s playing with some freshmen…. If you looked at the number of shots she’s faced through this number of games compared to two years ago, I’d be surprised if she hasn’t seen more shots this year.”
The power play has been one of the UMD’s strengths this season, firing at 18.9 percent to rank No. 15 in the country. However, BSU enters the weekend with the nation’s third-best penalty kill with a 90.9 percent success rate.
The Beavers will need more of the same level of play from its PK, as well as goalies Lauren Bench and Kerigan Dowhy, in order to earn some much-needed points.
“It starts with our goaltending,” Scanlan said. “That’s always going to be your best penalty killer. It has to be your goalie, and both goalies have done a great job. But our penalty killers are all veterans. They’ve all done it for a couple years.”
If you go
Who: BSU vs. Minnesota Duluth
Where: Sanford Center
When: 3:07 p.m. Friday, 1:07 p.m. Saturday
Radio: Beaver Radio Network/1300 AM