There is an old adage that the best defense is a good offense. The 2011-12 Bemidji State women’s hockey team is putting a new spin on that idea this season as some of its most productive players offensively have been its defenseman, none more so than senior Montana Vichorek. Vichorek leads the Beavers with four goals and 10 assists through eight games and has helped the team to its best start since 2002-03. The native of Moose Lake, Minn. has come a long way since arriving to a struggling BSU program four years ago and has become one of the team’s best players as evidenced by her selection to participate in a camp with the United States Women’s Hockey National Team this August.
When Vichorek came to Bemidji State prior to the 2008-09 season the Beavers had just come off a 1-25-2 record in Steve Sertich’s second year as head coach. During Vichorek’s sophomore and junior campaigns, BSU picked up 26 victories including the program’s first-ever wins over a No. 1 team and a berth to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association FINAL FACE-OFF during the 2009-10 season.
“Our coaches have done a great job of recruiting a lot of hard-working players,” Vichorek said. “We are a competitive team, we don’t like losing and we come from programs that have done well. We wanted to turn this program around and we had great players ahead of us who we have worked to emulate. Now everything is finally coming together.”
Vichorek has made strides personally since her freshman season. In addition to being one of BSU’s most reliable defenseman she has also come along way on the offensive end of the ice. Vichorek currently ranks second all-time in points among Bemidji State defensemen with 60. She is also on BSU’s career charts for assists (eighth), goals by a defenseman (second) and assists by a defenseman (second). This season, she has focused more attention to the offensive aspects of the game as BSU looks to help replace the scoring of Erin Cody, Annie Bauerfeld and Erin Johnson. Cody and Bauerfeld both rank among the program’s top 10 scorers all-time.
“As defensemen we are definitely trying to get more shots instead of just dumping the puck down the ice this season,” Vichorek said. “We try to get it to the net to try to let our forwards shoot it in. We are trying to help our forwards in any way possible.”
This summer the United States National Team took notice of Vichorek as she was selected as one of 79 players to partake in the USA Women’s Hockey National Festival. The crop of players included 19 of 21 members of the U.S. National Team that captured the gold medal at the IIHF Women’s World Championship.
“It was a great experience,” Vichorek said. “The majority of the Olympic team was there. It was an honor to be able to play with them.”
The impact of Vichorek’s experience is paying dividends at Bemidji State as she has worked to instill the fundamentals she learned over the summer in her game, as well as with her teammates.
“The other players really taught me to recognize that you are a great player even when you mess up,” Vichorek said. “Everyone messes up, it happens. It is all about having the confidence to keep playing no matter what and just continuing to work hard. If you work hard people will follow in your foot steps.”
Vichorek has just begun her senior season but it won’t be long until she plays her final game on the ice of Sanford Center. She is beginning to focus on a career after hockey.
“I’m trying to get into pharmacy school,” Vichorek said. “So whatever happens with that will determine what I will do. If I get into the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Whitecaps are in the Twin Cities so I would love to keep playing if I have that opportunity but if I don’t we will see what happens.”
For now Vichorek will focus on helping the BSU women’s hockey team continue to build on its start to the 2011-12 campaign as she continues to focus on being the epitome of an offensive defenseman.