Tomcikova sets standard at BSU between the pipes
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Tomcikova sets standard at BSU between the pipes

BEMIDJI, Minn. - It has been a long road for Bemidji State University goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova, nearly 5,000 miles to be exact, but the Beaver netminder has solidified herself as one of the world’s finest between the pipes during her time in Bemidji. Whether it has been taking the Beavers to new heights in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association or leading her home nation, Slovakia, in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Tomcikova has made a name for herself around hockey circles.

Four years ago Beaver head coach Steve Sertich took a chance on the little known Bratislava, Slovakia native and the gamble has paid off for both the Bemidji State University women’s hockey program and Tomcikova.

“It is hard to put words to what a great goaltender does for your program,” Sertich said. “Every game you have a chance to win. She is consistently good. That kind of consistency doesn’t happen all that often. It is just amazing. Opposing coaches have commented that they can’t wait until she graduates because she has been such a thorn for many.”

The story of how Tomcikova ended up in the most unlikely of places, Bemidji, Minn., starts as Sertich and assistant coaches Shane Veenker and Heather Farrell  (former assistant coach) were looking to replace departed netminder Emily Brookshaw, who had set career marks in almost every major category for a goaltender during her four years as a Beaver. Thanks to the help of a National Hockey League scout in Slovakia, the Beavers were put in contact with Tomcikova who was looking for an opportunity to play hockey and get an education.

“I was playing in Sweden the year before I came to BSU,” Tomcikova said. “I wanted to get my schooling done and play at a high level of hockey and that didn’t work out in Sweden. I tried to contact a few universities. One of my friends got a hold of a lot of coaches in the U.S. Coach Sertich was interested and it seemed like a good fit so I ended up here in August or September of that year.”

Despite her dislike for the amount of snow Bemidji receives every winter, Tomcikova became a natural fit from the onset of her career as a Beaver. Named to the All-WCHA Second Team and All-WCHA Rookie Team as a freshman, she also became only the second player in program history to eclipse the 1,000 save plateau in a season during her inaugural campaign in the green and white.

Mid-way through her sophomore year she put her collegiate career on hold as her journey took her to Vancouver, where she represented Slovakia as its starting goaltender in the 2010 Olympics. Tomcikova marks that as a memory that she will never forget.

“It has always been my dream to go the Olympics,” Tomcikova said. “When I was a kid I used to tell my parents I wanted to play in the Olympics and they would just smile and say ‘Maybe one day’, and then in 2008 we qualified. It was everything I expected it to be. Even now I get goose bumps talking about it. It was such a great event and I cherish those moments very much.”

Following the completion of the Olympics, Tomcikova returned to complete her sophomore season, where she wound up being named WCHA Co-Player of the Year and was also a nominee for the Patty Kazmaier award, the award given to the nation’s top collegiate women’s hockey player.

Tomcikova has built on the success during her first two seasons, as she was again named All-WCHA as a junior and has gone to break the career records at Bemidji State for saves, games played, minutes played, saves percentage, goals against average, wins and shutouts. She also ranks second all-time for saves in WCHA history and fifth all-time in the NCAA for saves.

When asked what it meant to have her name forever etched in the record books, Tomcikova responded.
“It feels pretty good. I think everyone wants to leave their mark and that is the mark I am leaving, but I couldn’t have done it by myself. My teammates have been great. It has been an amazing four years and I can’t believe it is almost over.”

Tomcikova has also helped BSU to team bests in her time at BSU. This season the Beavers got off to their best start in program history, achieving their first national ranking before ascending to as high as No. 7. Tomcikova is also a member of the four-year class with the most wins in Beaver history along with teammates Kimberly Lieder, Alana McElhinney, Montana Vichorek, Marlee Wheelhouse and Lauren Williams. As it is “Senior Day” this Saturday, Tomcikova reflected on how quickly time has flown by during her four years at BSU.

“I remember the first day when I got to BSU and Ashley Leopold was working out with me and I was terrified of her. Now I am the senior and I bet some of the freshmen were terrified of me too. The games at the Glas Fieldhouse and now the Sanford Center and the progress we have made as a program over the last four years have been great. I’m happy to have been a part of it.”

Tomcikova will suit up for the final time on home ice Saturday afternoon at Sanford Center. Whether it is the numerous highlight reel saves or the countless saves she’s made with a teammate’s stick, the Olympian and elite goaltender has written a legacy that will forever be etched in BSU lore as she has set the standard for those who will follow in her footsteps in the crease at Bemidji State.