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WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Beavers upset top-ranked Wisconsin

BEMIDJI -- The top-ranked team in NCAA Division I women's hockey went down Friday night as Bemidji State knocked off No. 1 Wisconsin with a 2-1 win in the first game of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series.

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Bemidji State goalie Lauren Bench makes a glove save during Friday's game against Wisconsin at the Sanford Center. (BSU photo)
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BEMIDJI -- The top-ranked team in NCAA Division I women’s hockey went down Friday night as Bemidji State knocked off No. 1 Wisconsin with a 2-1 win in the first game of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series.

The win was the first for the Beavers over the Badgers since Jan. 16, 2015, snapping Wisconsin’s 17-game unbeaten streak (16-0-1) in the series.

“It’s an incredible feeling just to win with your team, and just get that positive energy and excitement,” said sophomore Lydia Passolt, who scored the game-winning goal in the third period. “It’s great. It’s unbelievable.”

“I’m just really proud of our group,” head coach Jim Scanlan added. “We ask for commitment, and I talked about playing with energy and passion today. You certainly saw that there down the stretch.”

Following Passolt’s power-play goal with 10:25 to go in the third, the Badgers (23-4-0, 13-4-0-0 WCHA) pulled goalie Kristen Campbell for the extra attacker with about 2:25 remaining. The Beavers (10-15-2, 7-8-2-0 WCHA) fought to thwart every last scoring chance with a bevy of blocked shots to survive for the victory.

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“We knew that was going to be a long two and a half minutes,” said sophomore goalie Lauren Bench. “We knew we had to battle every second, and they weren’t going to go easy on us. They were going to be making plays. They’re a very skilled team, and they really showed that in those last two minutes.”

Bench turned aside 29 of the 30 shots she faced to improve to 6-7-2 on the year. Though the Beavers were only outshot 18-16 through two periods, the Badgers owned a 12-2 shots advantage in a dominant third period.

“(Bench) made all the saves she needed to make,” Scanlan said. “She got a lot of help from her teammates. … I thought our D did a really nice job of keeping them from getting those quality shots right on top of our net. But again, you face 30 shots and give up one goal, you’ve had a heck of a game and she certainly did.”

“I just tried to tell myself every time they were coming into the zone to make that next save, and make them make a play,” Bench said.

The teams headed to the locker room scoreless after the first period.

Mekenzie Steffen opened the scoring for Wisconsin near the midpoint in the second period, sliding a shot that snuck past Bench for the 1-0 lead.

Jacqueline Kaasa tallied her seventh goal of the season, tied for second on BSU, to even the score four minutes later. The junior batted a rebound past Campbell for the equalizer after the initial shot by Paige Beebe.

In the third period, Passolt gave the Beavers their first and only lead by firing a low shot glove side past a screened Campbell for the go-ahead goal.

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Campbell, the nation’s leader in goals against average (1.16) entering the game, stopped 16 of 18 shots and fell to 23-4-0 on the season.

The Beavers picked up three points in the WCHA standings and handed the Badgers their fourth loss of the year, denying them a chance to move past Minnesota for first place this weekend. The Gophers are four points ahead of Wisconsin.

As a bonus, the win was also the 81st in Scanlan’s career, tying the fifth-year coach for the most in program history alongside Steve Sertich.

Bemidji State will attempt to duplicate its upset performance again Saturday when the series concludes at 3:07 p.m. at the Sanford Center.

Bemidji State 2, Wisconsin 1
WIS 0 1 0 -- 1
BSU 0 1 1 -- 2
First period -- No scoring.
Second period -- 1, WIS, Steffen (unassisted), 8:26; 2, BSU, Kaasa (Beebe, Radke), 12:18.
Third period -- 3, BSU, Passolt (Bergland, Radke), 9:35, PP.
Goalies (saves-shots) -- BSU, Bench (29-30); WIS, Campbell (16-18).

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BSU junior Jacqueline Kaasa controls the puck during Friday's game against Wisconsin at the Sanford Center. (BSU photo)

Related Topics: BEMIDJI STATE BEAVERS
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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