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WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers battle top-ranked Clarkson to open season

BEMIDJI -- In sports, only one team has the opportunity each year to open its season against the defending national champions. In women's college hockey, Bemidji State is the team that faces that challenge this season. The Beavers will welcome tw...

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BEMIDJI -- In sports, only one team has the opportunity each year to open its season against the defending national champions.

In women’s college hockey, Bemidji State is the team that faces that challenge this season.

The Beavers will welcome two-time defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Clarkson to the Sanford Center for a non-conference series this weekend. The first game is set for 6:07 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, with a 3:07 p.m. matinee Saturday, Sept. 29.

“Certainly the start of the season is always an exciting time. (Players) are always looking forward to it,” BSU head coach Jim Scanlan said. “But then you add to that the challenge that our opponent brings into the rink and what they’ve done, it just adds to it.”

The Golden Knights have claimed three of the last five NCAA Division I national championships with wins in 2014, 2017 and 2018. The upstate New York school is the only program outside the Western Collegiate Hockey Association to have ever won a national title.

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“That’s pretty remarkable,” Scanlan said regarding Clarkson’s recent run. “We like to think of the WCHA, that we’re the predominant league in all of college hockey, but Clarkson’s won it three times in the last five years, including the last two. So if there’s a dynasty right now in the college game, it’s certainly that team out of Potsdam.”

The Beavers fared well against the Golden Knights in an early season series in Potsdam, N.Y., last October. Despite losing both games, BSU kept Clarkson scoreless until the third period in a 2-0 loss, and then attempted a late comeback the next day in a close, 5-4 defeat.

The Golden Knights finished fourth nationally last season on offense, scoring at a clip of 3.85 goals per game.

Clarkson returns its top four scorers, including the nation’s top line. Senior Loren Gabel, a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, leads the team after posting a school-record 75 points (36g-39a), while sophomore Elizabeth Giguere (27g-44a) and junior Michaela Pejzlova (26g-29a) each strengthen the Golden Knight attack.

Gone is Clarkson’s all-time winningest goaltender Shea Tiley, but the program didn’t miss a beat in adding Ohio State All-American netminder Kassidy Sauve as a graduate transfer.

“Obviously we know they’re a very good team,” said BSU sophomore forward Clair DeGeorge. “They move the puck well, and they’re always moving. We’re a very fast team. I think if we just go out and set the pace -- or if they set the pace, keep up with them -- and we’ll have a good chance.”

“We know that it’s going to be a tremendous challenge,” Scanlan added. “But the greater the challenge, the bigger the opportunity. That’s the way we’re looking at it.”

If you go
Who: BSU vs. Clarkson
Where: Sanford Center
When: 6:07 p.m. Friday; 3:07 p.m. Saturday
Radio: Beaver Radio Network/1300 AM

Austin Monteith is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of Bloomington, Ill., he is a 2015 graduate of Butler University. Follow him on Twitter at @amonteith92. Contact the Pioneer sports department at sports@bemidjipioneer.com.
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