WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Beavers, Badgers clash in WCHA Final Faceoff
BEMIDJI—Playing in March is a welcomed reward for the Bemidji State women's hockey team.
For only the third time in program history, the Beavers will compete in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Faceoff. In the program's 20 years of existence, this team has already put itself in select company.
"It's pretty special," BSU coach Jim Scanlan said. "To be able to play in March, the month of March, is a very special accomplishment. I know this group certainly isn't (going to) be just happy to be there."
The Beavers will play Wisconsin at at 2:07 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Minnesota's Ridder Arena.
Members of the current senior class were freshmen the last time BSU competed in a Final Faceoff, falling to Wisconsin in the 2015 championship game. The program's first appearance in 2010 resulted in a semifinal loss to Minnesota Duluth.
"It's obviously very exciting and we're all I think very excited," said junior Emily Bergland, who recorded a goal and an assist in Sunday's quarterfinal series-clinching Game 3 win over fourth-seeded Minnesota Duluth. "We worked really hard to get there. It was a good series against Duluth and we found a way to win."
Freshman Kerigan Dowhy started in all net for all three games of the series, an upset win for the fifth-seeded Beavers.
"Every game I play I get a bit more confident and I get use to the pace of the game and how tough it really is," Dowhy said. "I feel definitely really ready to go."
"She's just playing so well, and the biggest thing is the team is seeing that and they're playing with a lot of confidence now in front of her," Scanlan said. "I think she's proven to them that she's (going to) keep us in games and make saves... On Sunday, she made some saves that you could just feel the whole bench just react to it or respond to it."
The native of The Pas, Man., picked the perfect opportunity to post her first career shutout in Sunday's victory, improving her record to 5-1-1 after making only four regular-season starts.
"When the team was going twice a week as far as their workouts, she was going three times a week because she just wanted to, because she wasn't playing as much," Scanlan said. "I think that's really helped her now. Playing three games in three days didn't affect her at all. In some respects, she's really fresh and she's playing like a veteran."
Dohwy and the Beavers (16-18-3, 11-14-2-1 WCHA) handed top-ranked Wisconsin, Saturday's semifinal opponent, its first tie (3-3) of the season Jan. 20. Both games of that series required overtime, with the Badgers winning 4-3 in the extra period of the first game before winning the shootout the next day.
The teams will meet for the fifth time this year in Saturday's semifinal game at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The Badgers (29-3-2, 20-2-2-2 WCHA) went 3-0-1 against Bemidji State in the regular season, but that January series gives the Beavers confidence.
"Whenever you play a team like Wisconsin, you know you're getting a great game," Bergland said. "We scored a bunch that series so that was good to see. We've got to do the same this weekend.
"They're a fun team to play against. It's a fast-paced game. Just try to get a lot of shots and play with confidence, I think. You want the puck on your stick."
The winner will advance to Sunday's championship game and face the winner of Ohio State and Minnesota with a chance to clinch the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Beavers are accustomed to playing with their backs against the wall in a win-or-go-home game.
"I thought, too, when we had our do-or-die situation against Duluth, we brought our best game we had all weekend," Dowhy said. "I'm totally confident in our ability to take on Wisconsin."