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WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Bemidji State focused on itself ahead of No. 3 Minnesota

After a successful weekend series against Clarkson, it doesn’t get any easier for the Bemidji State women’s hockey team.

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Bemidji State sophomore Taylor Nelson (8) takes control of the puck against Clarkson University on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, at the Sanford Center. (Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- After a successful weekend series against Clarkson, it doesn’t get any easier for the Bemidji State women’s hockey team.

The Beavers get a chance to build off their success against CU, but it comes against an elite opponent -- No. 3 Minnesota.

Still, BSU is staying focused on what it has done well and trying to refine its success in crucial parts of the game that will help the team compete with formidable foes like Minnesota.

“One of the things leading into last week was how well we practiced,” head coach Jim Scanlan said. “We had a really good week of practice where we competed really hard against each other, and we're going to need to do the exact same thing this week.”

The Gophers swept then-No. 3 Colgate in a road series last weekend to take Colgate’s spot in the polls. They present a mix of experience and young talent that will strain Bemidji State’s defense and force them to execute.

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“We know Minnesota is an outstanding team,” Scanlan said. “We know they're high-flying, they've got a lot of skill and they’re fast, veteran-laden and their freshmen are real good. So it's going to be a tremendous challenge.”

One key cog in the Beavers’ attack will be sophomore forward Taylor Nelson, who posted two assists against Clarkson. Despite that offensive success, Nelson knows the focus will be primarily on defense against the Gophers.

“I think that'll be very important,” Nelson said. “I think once we have a good set defensive side of the game, then we start creating offense. So I think just making sure that we take care of our end and then we look to create those offensive chances, (which) are going to be really important.”

Enhancing that defense-first mentality includes the play of sophomore goaltender Hannah Hogenson, who has impressed since taking over in net after fifth-year starter Kerigan Dowhy’s injury. Nelson has seen good things from the sophomore as she has integrated herself into Bemidji State’s defensive scheme.

“I think it's amazing,” Nelson said. “She gets this opportunity to show her skills, and she's been doing so well the last three games. She's saved amazing shots on net that could have went otherwise. I think that she's handled it very well. And she's ready for this weekend.”

The Beavers will need the best from Hogenson, Nelson and all their players to counter the Gophers’ fierce attack. Continuing their success with getting in shooting lanes and blocking shots will make Hogenson’s job easier as she continues to adjust to goaltending in Division I hockey.

They’ll also have to score, of course, something that can be accomplished by bringing similar intensity in the offensive zone.

“The biggest thing is creating more offense,” Nelson said. “I think we do pretty well on our defensive side of the game, but maybe creating more chances. … Crashing the net really hard, getting those rebounds. If there's something laying out, don't hesitate. Just go, and try pushing anything you can into the net.”

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BSU faces Minnesota at 3:01 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29, and 2:01 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, at the Sanford Center.

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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