WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Familiar foes reunite as Beavers meet UMD in WCHA playoffs

102319.S.BP.BSUWHKY Heather Olson.jpg
Bemidji State senior Heather Olson (20) battles with Minnesota Duluth’s Kailee Skinner (7) for the puck on Oct. 18, 2019, at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- For the fifth time in six seasons, Bemidji State and Minnesota Duluth are set to meet in the women’s WCHA quarterfinals.

“It’s deja vu all over again,” BSU head coach Jim Scanlan said.

In what has almost become an annual tradition, the league’s northern Minnesota rivals will clash in a best-of-three quarterfinal series with the winner advancing to the WCHA Final Faceoff.

The Beavers (15-16-3, 9-13-2-0 WCHA) enter the series as the No. 5 seed after being out of action last weekend. The Bulldogs (16-10-6, 11-8-5-3 WCHA) were stuck with the No. 4 seed after Ohio State’s sweep of St. Cloud State clinched the Buckeyes the No. 3 seed.

“It’s definitely an intense series every time we play them,” said senior Haley Mack, the Beavers’ leading scorer with 25 points and 14 goals. “I think it’s just two good teams going at it. Just the competitive nature between both programs is very high.”


For Mack and the team’s seniors, there’s no other opponent they’re more familiar with, having played the Bulldogs 23 times over the last four seasons.

The schools have won two playoff series apiece in their last four postseason meetings, with UMD sweeping last year’s matchup in Duluth. In 2018, BSU beat the Bulldogs in three games at Amsoil Arena to advance to the Final Faceoff, much as how the 2015 quarterfinal series played out. Minnesota Duluth came to Bemidji in 2016 and upset the Beavers in a sweep.

As far as this season, the Beavers swept UMD at home in October before the Bulldogs won three straight in January against BSU in Duluth, including a 2-0 win in the Minnesota Cup final.

“The last series, I know going into it, Maura (Crowell) thought that we were real physical, so that kind of ramped up their physicality,” Scanlan said, referring to UMD’s head coach. “It was just a real battle, it was a physical battle. I expect it to be the same thing.”

UMD carries a No. 9 national ranking into the series, fresh off a one-point weekend against Wisconsin that ended with the Badgers scoring twice in the final minute of regulation to force a 5-5 tie and clinch the WCHA title outright.

The Beavers will have to contend with senior goalie Maddie Rooney, who has solidified her position as one of the nation’s top netminders after taking a step back in her return from winning Olympic gold last season.

“(She’s) really kind of regained her form from her sophomore year,” Scanlan said. “She’s just an outstanding goalie. They just present a really formidable opponent.”

Gabbie Hughes (18g-30a) and Sydney Brodt (17g-20a) lead from the top offensively for the Bulldogs. On the back end, Ashton Bell finished the season as the WCHA’s top scoring blueliner with 31 points (11g-20a).


It’s never easy winning a playoff series on the road, but Bemidji State pulled it off two years ago when these same teams met. Mack and the seniors will need to give it all they’ve got to replicate that result.

“We know that they are a very good team,” Mack said. “They have a very good goalie, they have good defensemen, they have lots of goal scorers on their team. They’re an all-around great team to play, so we know in order to beat them we have to come with our A-game and play really well.”

At a glance

Who: Bemidji State at Minnesota Duluth

What: WCHA quarterfinals

Where: Amsoil Arena, Duluth

When: 7:07 p.m. Friday; 4:07 p.m. Saturday, Sunday (if needed)



Radio: Beaver Radio Network/1300AM & 94.3 FM

102319.S.BP.BSUWHKY2 Haley Mack.jpg
Bemidji State senior Haley Mack (19) takes a shot at the Minnesota Duluth goal in Saturday’s game at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

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
What To Read Next
Get Local