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UND WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Scanlan, BSU hope for home ice

A year ago, Bemidji State was in position to finish in the top half of the Women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association for the first time ever. A trip to Grand Forks ended that hope. Bemidji State was swept by UND and settled for a fifth-place ...

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A year ago, Bemidji State was in position to finish in the top half of the Women’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association for the first time ever.

A trip to Grand Forks ended that hope.

Bemidji State was swept by UND and settled for a fifth-place finish, one spot outside of getting home-ice advantage for the first round of the league’s playoffs. The Beavers still made program history by winning the series and reaching the WCHA Final Faceoff for the first time ever.

Now, Jim Scanlan wants more history.

The second-year coach and former East Grand Forks Senior High hockey coach and athletic director has the Beavers in position to contend for a top-half finish again.

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Bemidji State is 12-4-2 overall, 9-4-2 in league play and is ranked No. 6 in the country as it heads for this weekend’s showdown against North Dakota. Friday’s game (7:07 p.m.) will be played in Bemidji’s Sanford Center and the series finale will be 2:07 p.m. Sunday in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Like the late-season meeting a year ago, it will hold key points for both teams.

“I just think any point you get is huge,” Scanlan said. “Obviously, with where we’re at, with where we sit next to North Dakota, for us to get points right now would be huge. It has probably been a long time since Bemidji State has had a season series win over North Dakota. If we get one win this weekend, it would give us a series win.”

Bemidji State earned a 0-0 tie and a 2-1 overtime win over UND in mid-October. The Beavers scored a late, extra-attacker goal to send that game into overtime and won on a point shot with just seven seconds left in overtime.

With sweeps over half of the league -- Ohio State, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State-Mankato -- the Beavers have never been in better position to finish in the top half.

“We’re really pleased with where we’re at,” Scanlan said. “This is our last series, then we have a pretty lengthy break before we play in the new year. Our ultimate goals, we want to be a top-four team so we get home ice. That’s something this program has never done. Right now, we’re in a good spot. We have an awful long way to go, but this weekend is a great opportunity to get some more separation.”

UND (9-5-2, 6-4-2 WCHA) has made home ice a habit the past few seasons. The Fighting Hawks have finished in the top half for each of the last five years, winning the first-round series each time.

But coach Brian Idalski is searching for consistency with this season’s squad.

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All eight weekends so far this season have featured one good game and one below-average game. UND was still able to get sweeps at RPI and MSU-Mankato, but it hasn’t had one since the first two weekends, losing chances to do so against Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State and Syracuse.

“I thought last Friday was our most complete game in every phase,” Idalski said of the series against the Orange. “It was a really good performance, a really good game for us. Then, we turn around and probably play one of our worst games of the year the next day.

“There comes a point in time, where you have to put the hammer down and play a certain way to win hockey games. We’re getting close to getting to the point where we were last year, where this is the way we play, this is the way we do things. I saw some good signs. We know what we need to work on and we get an opportunity to do that again this weekend.”

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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