BEMIDJI -- This weekend ought to have marked the beginning of a new season for the Bemidji State women’s hockey team. Instead, players can only practice and wonder when they’ll play their first game.
“It’s been hard not having answers, all the uncertainty,” senior co-captain Clair DeGeorge said Thursday. “We were sitting in the locker room today thinking, ‘Wow, tomorrow was supposed to be our first game day.’ And here we are not knowing when that’s going to be.”
The college hockey season has, of course, been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The home series against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that was scheduled to take place at the Sanford Center this weekend will not happen.
When exactly the first puck will drop on the season remains up in the air. That’s created a strange preseason of preparation for the Beavers, one they don’t know when exactly it will end.
“I know for our seniors it’s difficult and a little frustrating knowing that we could not start until January,” DeGeorge said.
“Obviously, you try to have that mentality that you’re playing as soon as possible,” fellow senior co-captain Mak Langei said. “You’re trying to get ready for that. But at the same time, you don’t want to overwork yourself, because at this point, we aren’t too sure on when the exact start date is going to be.”
The team has been practicing four days a week at the Sanford Center in two separate groups. Health protocols have kept the team from having the whole practice together due to limits on the number of players allowed in the locker room at one time.
“We’re just trying to do one hour for each group,” head coach Jim Scanlan said. “We’re trying to maximize that time. It’s a lot of skill development for the most part. Obviously, you’re not doing a lot of system work when you only have half the team on the ice.”
BSU will be able to practice as a whole team once it can work out COVID-19 testing, which Scanlan said could happen soon. The NCAA has mandated teams follow a testing regimen that would ramp up once the season begins, whenever that may be.
Like many in college sports, Scanlan is hopeful that saliva testing can provide an affordable option for schools.
“We’re really hoping to find inexpensive tests, whether it's the saliva tests we’ve been hearing about. Some of the Big Ten schools are utilizing that,” Scanlan said. “If we can get something like that, that’s certainly going to help.”
Off the ice, players have been working in three different groups with strength and conditioning coach Dallas Charles. Players are divided up based on class schedules, and those who live together are placed into the same pod.
After abruptly going their separate ways at the dawn of the pandemic in March, the team is glad to finally be back together again. Players are taking mostly online classes, as is the case with most BSU students, so they’re thankful for the chance to spend time with teammates.
“That’s one of the biggest things that I’ve been fortunate for is being able to at least see everybody and be together and still have some of those team things that we’ve always done, (and) get a little bit of normalcy, I suppose,” Langei said. “We do get to kind of see each other in passing or if like some people hang out on the weekends, I suppose, just in our kind of little bubbles. It definitely is great to be back in Bemidji with all the girls.”
November appears to be the earliest the season could begin. There’s optimism that the Beavers will be able to suit up and start the season at some point.
“I’m very optimistic, as of right now,” DeGeorge said. “As long as all the schools can get their testing going, it definitely helps knowing that Big Ten football and basketball have set start dates. It’s a little worrisome with the levels going up around the nation, and the fact that it’s within our age group mostly.”
“There’s so many layers to this. You have to follow all these different protocols,” Scanlan added. “I really just appreciate all the work everybody’s putting in to try to make this go.”