BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State women’s hockey team knocked off top-ranked Wisconsin for the second time in as many seasons Saturday afternoon. Lauren Bench made 38 saves between the pipes and Clair DeGeorge scored twice, including the game-winner, in a 3-2 upset victory at the Sanford Center.
The win was the Beavers’ fourth over a No. 1 team in program history and the first since a 2-1 home triumph over the Badgers on Feb. 1, 2019.
“I think every year we just get fired up to play them,” DeGeorge said. “And we know that we have the ability to beat them. … We’ve been playing well together lately as a team, and coming out and just going after them is a great feeling.”
Bemidji State is responsible for two of Wisconsin’s three losses since last February. The Badgers are 4-2-0 against BSU and an impressive 30-1-3 when playing anyone else during a span that includes a victory in the national title game.
“They’re a champion for a reason and you could see that by the response they had in the second and third period in the way they were pushing at the end,” BSU head coach Jim Scanlan said. “You’ve got to have some luck, no doubt about it. You’ve got to get some bounces and breaks, along with just a belief in your group.”
The Beavers (13-10-1, 7-7-0-0 WCHA) came a goal short in the series opener Friday, falling 3-2.
“They were disappointed yesterday,” Scanlan said. “They felt that was a game we should have won. To come out today and compete like they did, I’m just really proud of them.”
Goals by DeGeorge and Abby Halluska handed BSU a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes. DeGeorge swept a rebound past goalie Kristen Campbell as the BSU junior tumbled to the ice for the game’s first goal at 5:49 of the frame. Halluska doubled the lead by tapping in Lydia Passolt’s feed from the corner for a 2-0 advantage at the 13:44 mark.
For only the third time all season, Wisconsin (21-2-1, 11-2-1-0 WCHA) trailed entering the second period. The visitors came out guns ablazing and scored twice in 58 seconds to tie the game.
Sophie Shirley took advantage of the Badgers’ first power play as she fired a shot off the right post that found the top corner. Then, Caitlin Schneider equalized off Presley Norby’s pass across the slot for a goal off the rush.
The Beavers responded in a heartbeat, regaining a 3-2 lead only 77 seconds after the equalizer. A trailing DeGeorge buried from the slot after pouncing on a loose puck left by Reece Hunt.
“It was definitely huge. It’s always hard getting scored on, especially two back-to-back,” DeGeorge said. “We knew they were going to come out and give us a good punch during the second period.”
Wisconsin had every chance to knot the game back up in the third period, outshooting BSU 17-3 in the third and 31-8 over the final 40 minutes. Bench was there to stifle any chance as she stood on her head to preserve the lead.
“By the end of the game, I’m just thinking make that next save,” Bench said. “I knew my teammates had my back. There were multiple times in that game where I let up a bad rebound and they cleared it. I just knew I had to give them the same back and had to have their backs when they made mistakes, too.”
“When we needed saves, she made them,” Scanlan said. “To knock off that team, you need good goaltending. We certainly got that.”
The Badgers came up empty on a third-period power play, finishing 1-for-2 on the advantage. BSU finished 0-for-1.
Wisconsin pulled Campbell for the extra attacker with two minutes to play, but Bemidji State subdued every last threat to pick up three valuable WCHA points.
The Beavers will travel to Minnesota Duluth next weekend Jan. 17-18 for a two-game series between league rivals angling for home-ice advantage in the WCHA playoffs.
Bemidji State 3, No. 1 Wisconsin 2
UW 0 2 0 -- 2
BSU 2 1 0 -- 3
First period -- 1, BSU, DeGeorge (Langei, Mack), 5:49; 2, BSU, Halluska (Passolt, Jorde), 13:44.
Second period -- 3, UW, S. Shirley (Watts, Pettet), 6:16, PP; 4, UW, Schneider (Norby, G. Shirley), 5, BSU, DeGeorge (Hunt, Langei), 8:31.
Third period -- No scoring.
Goalies (saves-shots) -- BSU, Bench (38-40); UW, Campbell (15-18).