BEMIDJI, Minn. – With one series left in the 2018-19 regular season, the Bemidji State University women’s hockey team has an opportunity to decide its own seeding in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. The Beavers (13-17-2, 10-10-2-0 WCHA) hold fourth and first-round, home playoff positioning with 32 points in league play but are separated by fifth-place University of Minnesota Duluth by just one-point. The Beavers face a daunting opponent in their regular season finale by hosting No. 2 University of Minnesota. The team will honor its two seniors Melissa Hunt and Emily Bergland during the weekend complete with a post-game ceremony following Saturday’s matchup.
The Beavers and Gophers meet for the 91st and 92nd meetings in the two program’s histories dating back to 1998. Minnesota dominates the all-time series record and holds a 74-9-7 record against Bemidji State entering the weekend. The Gophers have also been dominant in Bemidji and are 33-3-3. Bemidji State and Minnesota met earlier in the season in Minneapolis where the Gophers earned a series sweep over the Beavers. The second-ranked Gophers outscored the Beavers 8-4 in the series held Nov. 2-3. Minnesota defeated BSU 6-3 in game one and earned a 2-1 victory in game two to complete the sweep. BSU was led by sophomores Clair DeGeorge and Paige Beebe in the series after the duo each posted two points. DeGeorge paced the Beavers with two goals while Beebe recorded two assists. Fifth-year head coach Jim Scanlan is 5-16-1 against the Gophers while Brad Frost is 42-7-4 against BSU in his 12 seasons.
A Look At The Gophers
Minnesota enters the weekend’s action voted as the No. 2 team in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine national polls and boast a 27-4-1 record overall. The Gophers garnered six first place votes in the polls but fall to No. 2 after holding the top spot for the past two weekends. Minnesota is second in league standings with 52 points and are 17-4-1 in league play. In the team’s last series, the Gophers earned a sweep over Minnesota State at home with 3-1 and 3-2 (OT) wins. The Gophers were led by Amy Potomak (1g-2a), Nicole Schammel (1g-1a), Sarah Potomak (1g-1a), Taylor Wente (1g-1a), and Emily Brown (0g-2a) against the Mavericks.
The Beavers will face one of the top offenses in the country this weekend. The Gophers average 4.31 goals per game to rank second in the nation and is the top scoring offense in the WCHA. Minnesota’s 138 goals for this season is the best in the NCAA. Minnesota’s defense is also in the top five in the nation and are fourth by holding opponents to just 1.72 goals per game. That mark is also good enough for second in the league. The Gophers’ power play is also one of the best in the nation and rank second at .247 percent. They have scored on 22-of-89 chances this season for the second most power-play goals in the WCHA. Minnesota’s penalty kill trails its power play but still rank third in the conference at .850 percent (68-of-80).
Through 32 games this season, Nicole Schammel (12g-29a), Grace Zumwinkle (22g-16a), and Taylor Heise (11g-21a) lead the Gophers in scoring. Schammel leads the WCHA with 41 points and 29 assists while Zumwinkle leads the league with 22 goals, and Heise is second in scoring among WCHA rookies with 32 points. Nine Gophers have reached the 20-point mark this season. Eight Gopher forwards have scored at least nine goals this season and, in total, 19 different skaters have scored goals. Two Gopher defensemen rank among the league’s top scoring blue-liners. Emily Brown (4g-20a) is tied for the scoring lead among WCHA defense with 24 points while Patti Marshall (2g-15a) is sixth in scoring among WCHA defense with 17 points. Minnesota has split time in net between sophomore Alex Gulstene and junior Sydney Scobee. Gulstene has seen more action of the two and in 19 games, boasts a 17-2-0 record with a 1.73 goals against average and .919 save percentage. However, Scobee boasts the better statistics and is second in the league with a 1.63 goals against average and .931 save percentage and is 10-2-1 this season.
A Look at the Beavers
Fresh off a series sweep on the road at St. Cloud State University, the Beavers look to continue their second-half success against the second-ranked Gophers. The Beavers are 8-4-1 in the second half of the season and have won three of their last four games. Bemidji State is 4-2-0 during February including wins over then ranked No. 1 University of Wisconsin and No. 9 Ohio State University. In the Beavers’ most recent series, BSU swept SCSU by scores of 4-2 and 2-1 OT at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Junior Jacqueline Kaasa (2g-1a) and sophomore Clair DeGeorge (1g-2a) paced the Beavers in the series by totaling three points each while Haley Mack (1g-1a), Lydia Passolt (1g-1a) and Mak Langei (0g-2a) each recorded two points. Redshirt sophomore Lauren Bench earned two wins between the pipes for the Beavers and stopped 36-of-39 shots for a .923 save percentage and 1.47 goals against average.
DeGeorge leads the Beavers’ offense with 21 points (9g-12a) this season and is tied for 22nd in the league. She is followed by junior Jacqueline Kaasa who has posted 17 points (9g-8a) in 32 games and her nine goals this season is tied with DeGeorge for most on the team. Senior Emily Bergland follows closely behind with 15 points (6g-9a) while Paige Beebe (7g-6a) and Lydia Pasolt (6g-6a) round out the top five scorers for BSU. Lauren Bench leads BSU’s goaltenders with a 9-8-2 record and has started four consecutive games for the Beavers. She has posted a 2.27 goals against average and .914 save percentage to lead the team.
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Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooden region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, BSU sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).