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UND WOMEN'S HOCKEY: BSU's Wheelhouse sisters playing Crookston 'home game' against Sioux

Marlee and Erika Wheelhouse were half-joking when they asked their Bemidji State hockey coach if the team could schedule a home game in their hometown of Crookston.

Marlee and Erika Wheelhouse were half-joking when they asked their Bemidji State hockey coach if the team could schedule a home game in their hometown of Crookston.

"Last year, we played in Roseau," said Marlee, the team captain. "Erika and I kept saying we should do a game in Crookston. I talked to Scott Riopelle, who runs all of the rink stuff and he said he'd love to do it. I told the coaches and it took off."

So, for the second year in a row, the UND and Bemidji State women's teams will play a showcase game in a small, northwest Minnesota town. They will open a two-game series in the Crookston Sports Center at 7:07 Friday night and complete the series in Bemidji's Sanford Center at 7:07 p.m. Saturday.

For the Wheelhouse sisters, it provides a chance for them to play in front of family and friends in their hometown, and it also gives them a chance to skate in a new arena that opened after they graduated from high school.

"Obviously, they have been a very important part of our program in the last few years," Bemidji State head coach Steve Sertich said. "They have such a nice hockey venue in Crookston that we thought this would be a win-win situation, and maybe we could get a few fans from that part of Minnesota to come out and watch.

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"There wasn't any big master plan for this game. (The Wheelhouses) just thought of it last year."

UND has one Crookston native on its roster in Shannon Kaiser, but she won't play because she's being redshirted.

The Wheelhouses will be key players, though.

The defensemen each have 15 points in 15 games this season, tying them for third nationally in defenseman scoring. As a unit, Bemidji State's blue liners have more points than any other defensive corps in the country.

But it's not just offense that makes the Wheelhouses stand out.

"They are both such gritty, tough players," Sertich said. "They are probably the best shot blockers I've ever had here in Bemidji. They are fearless. We always put them out against the top forwards on the other teams and they just give you 100 percent each shift."

The Beavers are 9-4-2, already with wins over top-10 teams in Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth. This weekend, they will try to slow down the Sioux, who are expected to break up the top line of Monique Lamoureux-Kolls, Jocelyne Lamoureux and Michelle Karvinen to spread out scoring.

"I don't know if we have an answer for them," Sertich said. "We just have to try and avoid them scoring too much."

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Marlee says that last year's first round playoff series against the Sioux sticks in her mind. UND won in overtime in the decisive third game.

"There's definitely a sour taste, losing in the playoffs," Marlee said. "We were so close to moving on. Just because of that, I think they are a rival. We're looking forward to playing them again. It should be a fun, physical, fast-paced game."

And one that their hometown fans can enjoy.

"We're definitely excited about it," Marlee said.

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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