Bemidji State has already kicked off its season, dropping 1-0 and 2-1 decisions Friday and Saturday at Mercyhurst. Despite the two losses, new head coach Bruce Olson wasn’t displeased with what he saw.
“We played well, especially for our opening games,” he said. “Defensively, we played well. Our forwards came back and picked people up in our own zone, our defense played well and our goalies played very well. We made it difficult for Mercyhurst to get to the net with quality shots and we didn’t make many mistakes.”
That neatly sums up what Olson is looking for from his team this season. Defense, goaltending, hard work and execution will be the trademarks for this year’s Beaver squad.
“We tried to pick up the pace in practice,” Olson said. “The girls have been receptive to what we want and they’re working hard. When I first met with them, they said they want to improve on what they did last year and they weren’t afraid to work hard so we’ve been putting more pressure on them in practice.”
The most pressure may be among the goalies, where senior Bre Dedrickson and junior Anik Cote are in competition. Cote got the nod in the season opener, stopping 35 of 36 shots in the 1-0 loss. Dedrickson followed up with a 29-save effort in the 2-1 defeat.
Olson admits to a preference for a clear-cut number-one goalie and his two netminders know the score.
“It’s real interesting right now,” Olson said. “Anik seems to be a little more controlled, moves better and has her body in proper position to stop the puck. Bre flops more but seems to get a glove or a pad on the puck when she needs to.
“They’re pushing each other right now and they know they’re battling for the number-one job. It might take a while, though, to determine that with these two because they both look capable of playing well and doing the job.”
BSU returns 20 letterwinners but return only one experienced blueliner in fourth-year captain Lisa Peters. At 5-9, she is the poster girl of the Beaver defense, which boasts size as its hallmark.
Bemidji State added three freshman defensemen to the lineup who have had an immediate impact. Toronto natives, 5-9 Mandy Bambrough and 5-6 Emily Curcuruto, plus 5-6 in-state recruit Sarah Zuelke, all logged extensive ice time in the team’s season-opening series at Mercyhurst.
Olson pointed out that former head coach Jason Lesteberg, now at St. Cloud State, and assistant coach Jim Ingman, who stayed on at BSU, filled some holes through recruiting.
“They identified that there were some holes to fill on the blue line and they did that with these three,” Olson said. “All three played on the power play, penalty kill and played a regular shift and were a big part of what we did.”
Among the forwards, the Beavers return five 25-point scorers from a year ago, led by second-team All-WCHA selection Amber Fryklund, who ranked 10th in the conference with 36 points. Fellow seniors Lill Raynard, Kerri McEwen, Alicia Kinsman and Betsy Hegland have all played more than 100 games, providing plenty of experience up front. Freshman Carly Napier is expected to contribute by centering team’s third line on a regular basis.
However, with 26 players, spots in the lineup and the travel roster are not guaranteed.
“It’s part of the pressure we’ve put on them,” Olson said. “Some of them will have to work to keep their spot. They know they can’t take a game or a practice off.”
After showing the largest improvement in the league standings last season, the Beavers look to continue their rise in the WCHA standings. They get that chance this weekend when they travel to St. Cloud State, Oct. 12-13, for their first league games of the season.