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WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Season opener finally in sight for Beavers

Bemidji State is slated to take the ice against St. Cloud State for a two-game set at the Sanford Center Dec. 10-11.

102319.S.BP.BSUWHKY Tina Kampa.jpg
Bemidji State's Tina Kampa (11) chases the puck in a game against Minnesota Duluth at the Sanford Center on Oct. 18, 2019. (Pioneer file photo)

BEMIDJI -- Knock on wood, but the Bemidji State women’s hockey team is finally ready to play its first games of the season this week.

Following the postponement of their first two series due to COVID-19 issues, the Beavers are slated to take the ice against St. Cloud State for a two-game set at the Sanford Center this Thursday and Friday.

“It’s been a long time coming as everyone probably knows, but we’re just happy to have this opportunity,” senior defenseman Tina Kampa said. “We’re not taking any other opportunities for granted. We’re definitely just excited to be on the ice, and hopefully we get to play some games this week.”

BSU’s last game came all the way back on March 1. The Beavers are the last remaining team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association that has yet to play a game this season.

“Man, it's been a long time,” head coach Jim Scanlan said. “No question, the group is really excited. You can just sense it.”

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Coincidentally, it was positive COVID-19 test results within the Huskies’ program that prevented the teams’ original season opener from happening Nov. 20-21. Bemidji State then dealt with its own positive cases that forced last weekend’s series with Minnesota State to be postponed.

The Beavers were unable to practice as a team for two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols. The team was eventually able to return to practicing as one unit on Saturday, so players will have had several days of practice to prepare for the opener.

“I was impressed,” Scanlan said of the Saturday practice. “For being off for two weeks, I thought we were pretty sharp. I think it just has to do with their enthusiasm, getting out of quarantine, getting back together and playing the game they love.”

“The social aspect of it is obviously the best part,” Kampa added. “Being together as a team is always exciting. We’ve been able to battle this adversity really well.”

Undoubtedly, BSU is behind the curve compared to their opponents this week when it comes to actually playing games. SCSU has played four games since returning from their COVID-19 pause.

“We’re going to leave it all out there,” Kampa said. “We might be a little rusty coming off of a little bit of a break, but we’re going to do the best we can to make the most of it.”

The Huskies opened with a win over Minnesota State before losing their last three, including getting swept at Minnesota Duluth last weekend to fall to 1-3-0.

Unlike their opponent, the Beavers don’t have the benefit of having game footage of themselves to review before taking the ice. But that doesn’t make the team any less eager to finally return to action for the first time in nine months.

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“We’ve videoed some of our intrasquad stuff and certainly have used that, but it’s a little different when you’re actually playing against another opponent in a game,” Scanlan said. “But having said that, we’re just going to be excited to get out there on the ice. Like I told the group, your work ethic (or) your compete level doesn’t change, whether you’ve played one game or three games. That can always be consistent.”

The series opener is scheduled for 6:07 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10, with the finale set for 3:07 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11. Fans will not be permitted to attend due to COVID-19 restrictions.

At a glance

Who: St. Cloud State at BSU

Where: Sanford Center

When: 6:07 p.m. Thursday; 3:07 p.m. Friday

Radio: Beaver Radio Network/1300 AM & 94.3 FM

Web stream: FloHockey.tv

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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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