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WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers best Mavericks with ‘greasy goals’ for 3-2 win

Claire Vekich doesn’t care if the goals come clean or dirty. They all count the same.

122221.S.BP.BSUWHKY Claire Vekich.jpg
Bemidji State freshman Claire Vekich (15) gains possession of the puck in the first period against Minnesota State on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI – Claire Vekich doesn’t care if the goals come clean or dirty. They all count the same.

So when the Bemidji State women’s hockey freshman scored off a ricocheted shot in Friday’s third period to put the Beavers on top for the first time, the beauty was in the result.

Vekich’s game-winner completed BSU’s comeback from two deficits to beat Minnesota State 3-2 at the Sanford Center.

“We were down 2-1 going into the third, and it's the biggest period of the year for us,” head coach Jim Scanlan said. “And I was really proud of how we responded. We went out there and played really well.”

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Bemidji State senior Lydia Passolt (3) shoots in the first period against Minnesota State on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Vekich’s goal was a Scanlan favorite – a dirty score, the result of attacking the front of the goal and willing the puck into the back of the net by any means necessary. After Paige Beebe’s shot smacked MSU goalie Calla Frank in the facemask, Vekich rolled up her sleeves.

“I'm sure it kind of surprised (Frank) a little bit,” Vekich said. “She probably didn't know where the puck went. But that's why I go to the net and get those greasy goals.”

Scanlan broke out the greasy descriptor for Vekich’s goal as well. Whatever you want to call it, it’s working – and helping Bemidji State win games.

“I just think we're harping on it so much to the point where people are starting to realize that it works,” Vekich said. “Once you do it once, twice, and you see – ‘Oh, this works. We can score goals like this’ – then you keep starting to do it and do it (repeatedly), and it just keeps going up from there.”

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Bemidji State sophomore Taylor Nelson (8) passes the puck in the first period against Minnesota State on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The Beavers (7-10-2, 4-10-1 WCHA) are chasing the Mavericks (9-10, 5-10 WCHA) in the WCHA standings and entered Friday seven points back of MSU. That number has now been cut to four.

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“If we want to catch them, we needed to give ourselves a chance tomorrow by winning today's game,” Scanlan said. “That's why we felt it was the most important period of the year to date.”

BSU got on the board for the first time with another dirty goal, a Taylor Nelson rebound shot 10:50 into the second period. The power-play score matched one by Minnesota State’s Brittyn Fleming earlier in the session.

But Bemidji State quickly fell back into a one-goal hole, as Kelsey King scored on a breakaway at 11:20 to regain the lead for the Mavericks.

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Bemidji State freshman Taylor Larson (4) skates with the puck in the first period against Minnesota State on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The Beavers didn’t match the score in the second, but they made up for it in the third. Lydia Passolt flicked in another grimy goal in front of the net at 3:05 to tie it at two. Then came the game-winner – Vekich’s gritty score at 12:02 on the power play.

Netminder Hannah Hogenson collected 26 saves for BSU, while Frank finished with 30 for Minnesota State.

Bemidji State’s victory snapped a four-game winning streak for MSU. It also gave the Beavers a much-needed boost after they left the Sanford Center winless last weekend against No. 1 Wisconsin. With another chance to close the gap tomorrow, BSU should be ready.

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“Those points really matter when it comes down to playoffs and the end of the year,” Vekich said. “And so knowing that they're ahead of us, I think that means a lot to all of us.”

Bemidji State will meet the Mavericks once more at 3:01 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18, at the Sanford Center.

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Bemidji State senior Paige Beebe (18) makes a drive toward the Minnesota State net in the first period on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Bemidji State 3, Minnesota State 2

MSU 0 2 0 -- 2

BSU 0 1 2 -- 3

First period -- No scoring.

Second period -- 1, MSU GOAL, Fleming (Mashuga, Kondas), 6:18, PP; 2, BSU GOAL, Nelson (Vekich, Deering), 10:50, PP; 3, MSU GOAL, King (Bobyck, Guttormson), 11:20.

Third period -- 4, BSU GOAL, Passolt (Beebe, Myers), 3:05; 5, BSU GOAL, Vekich (Beebe, Hunt), 12:02, PP.

Saves -- Hogenson (BSU) 26; Frank (MSU) 30.

122221.S.BP.BSUWHKY Adriana Van De Leest.jpg
Bemidji State freshman Adriana Van De Leest (24) skates with the puck in the first period against Minnesota State on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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