WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers rally twice, fall in OT to open season
Following a coronavirus-induced delay to the start of their season, Bemidji State twice rallied to tie the score in its season opener, only to fall 3-2 in overtime to St. Cloud State.
BEMIDJI -- The wait ended after 284 days for the Bemidji State women’s hockey team Thursday night, so why not play overtime?
Following a coronavirus-induced delay to the start of their season, the Beavers twice rallied to tie the score in their season opener, only to fall 3-2 in overtime to St. Cloud State at the Sanford Center.
Originally set to start the pandemic-shortened season Nov. 20, COVID-19 issues delayed the start of the season almost three weeks for BSU, making the team the last in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association to begin play. More than nine months had passed since their last game on March 1.
“We were definitely very excited. It’s fun to see the freshmen coming in (and) putting the jersey on for the first time for a real game,” said forward Clair DeGeorge, one of eight seniors in the lineup who were glad to finally hit the ice for their final season opener.
“You could just sense how excited (the players) were on the bench,” added head coach Jim Scanlan. “We talked about being really grateful and how every game is a gift.”
The new-look lineup eventually began to show signs of fatigue following the long layoff.
“Certainly you could see the legs getting heavier as the game went on,” Scanlan said. “It’s just so hard to duplicate that kind of pressure or intensity in practice.”
The Beavers had also recently gone 14 days without practicing due to COVID-19 cases within the program before resuming practice last weekend.
“Coming off a 14-day layoff and then getting four practices in before playing a team that’s already played (four) times, I thought we did a pretty good job,” Scanlan said.
Bemidji State got outshot early in the opening frame, and had stemmed the tide by period’s end, but not before the Huskies (2-3-0) struck for the first goal.
Olivia Cvar slid the puck from beside the cage back to Taylor Lind waiting in the right circle for the opening tally near the midpoint in the first period.
The team’s top returning scorer from a year ago was the first Beaver to light the lamp in 2020-21.
Lydia Passolt, a 10-goal scorer last season, whipped a shot from deep in the left circle past goalie Emma Polusny to level the score at 1-all with 10:35 to go in the second period.
Early in the third period, Jenniina Nylund scored from the slot to hand the lead back to SCSU.
Despite being down a player, the Beavers rallied to tie the game again moments later.
DeGeorge made a drive to the net, eluded three defenders and flicked the puck for the shorthanded goal.
“In college, I believe that’s probably my first (shorthanded goal),” said DeGeorge, whose 22 points last year are the most among the team’s returners. “I wasn’t expecting it to go in. I was a little shocked, but definitely always happy for that.”
Deadlocked after 60 minutes, the game entered overtime.
Thursday marked the first time BSU has played in the new NCAA-wide 3-on-3 overtime format. Previously, WCHA games would only go to 3-on-3 overtime if the score remained tied after the initial 5-on-5 overtime period, but 5-on-5 overtime is now a thing of the past during the regular season.
The Huskies clinched the win when Nylund found an open Emma Gentry in the slot as she went five-hole for the game-winning goal in overtime. The goal was the first in the freshman’s collegiate career.
SCSU secured two WCHA standings points with the overtime win, while the Beavers earned one from the extra-frame loss.
Four players finished with two points each: Gentry (1g-1a) and Nylund (1g-1a) for SCSU, and DeGeorge (1g-1a) and Tina Kampa (2a) for the Beavers.
Polusny and Kerigan Dowhy posted 27 saves apiece in net for each team.
St. Cloud State was held 0-for-4 on the power play, while BSU went 0-for-1.
The teams will meet again at 3:07 p.m. Friday in the series finale at the Sanford Center.
“Now we have a game film we can work with and teach from, so that’ll help,” Scanlan said. “Overall, for our first time out and first game of the year on Dec. 10, not too bad.”
St. Cloud State 3, Bemidji State 2 (OT)
SCSU 1 0 1 1 -- 3
BSU 0 1 1 0 -- 2
First period -- 1, SCSU, Lind (Cvar, Gentry), 10:21.
Second period -- 2, BSU, Passolt (DeGeorge, Kampa), 9:25.
Third period -- 3, SCSU, Nylund (Hymlarova), 3:40; 4, BSU, DeGeorge (Kampa), 7:25, SH.
Overtime -- 5, SCSU, Gentry (Nylund), 2:37.
Goalies (saves-shots) -- BSU, Dowhy (27-30); SCSU, Polusny (27-29).