Bemidji State jumped from fifth to third in the league standings with its sweep of St. Cloud State, giving the Beavers a seven-point lead over the Huskies, over whom they also have two games in hand, for the fifth and final spot in the WCHA Final Five.
Both No. 7 Wisconsin, one point behind BSU in fourth, and Ohio State, two points back in fifth, have two games in hand over Bemidji with home games against the Beavers remaining.
Nonetheless, the wins were a statement that Bemidji State is serious about returning to the Final Five and would like to enter higher than the fifth seed. The victories also ended a seven-game winless streak.
Any points the Beavers can take off No. 3 Minnesota this weekend, its final home conference series of the season, would help solidify their position in the WCHA race.
To do that, they will need to get quality goaltending, which they got against the Huskies. Sophomore Anik Coté has posted a 2.21 goals against average and a .918 save percentage, belying the fact that she has a sub-.500 (5-7-2) record. Freshman Jill Luebke, who stopped 34 shots in Saturday’s 6-1 win over St. Cloud State, has provided a quality number-two netminder, going 2-1-4 with a 2.51 GAA and .914 SV%.
The nine-goal output by the Beavers was their best effort in a conference series this season as well. It bodes well for the team that some of that production came from new sources.
Sophomore forward Katie Ward, the league’s offensive player of the week, scored four points in Saturday’s win, doubling her offensive output for the season. Freshman forward Cassi Petsch recorded her first collegiate points by scoring a goal in each game.
They’ll need all of that, and maybe more, in taking on a rested Minnesota squad, a team which they’ve never beaten.
However, Gopher head coach Laura Halldorson admitted to being concerned about the weekend series, playing in a rink where they have struggled at times.
Last year, the Gophers needed a pair of goals in the third period and an overtime goal by La Toya Clarke to earn a 3-2 win following a 2-2 tie. One of Minnesota’s worst defensive efforts came Jan. 13, 2001, when the Gophers took an 8-5 win from the Beavers.
Being able to get through the Beavers’ neutral-zone forecheck and create space in the offensive zone will be key for the Gophers, who will be making a push to gain points on Minnesota-Duluth and solidify their position in the PairWise Rankings, which nearly guarantee who makes the NCAA Frozen Four.
Many expect Minnesota to walk away from this weekend’s series with a pair of wins. If the Gophers do pick up four points, rest assured they won’t come easy.
MacLeod Returns To Badger lineup
Wisconsin sophomore defenseman Carla MacLeod returned to the Badger lineup after a 16-game absence in her team’s home series versus New Hampshire.
The third-leading scorer in 2001-02 for Wisconsin, MacLeod earned her first point of the season with an assist in the Badgers’ 1-1 tie Saturday against the Wildcats. Last season she tallied two goals and a team-leading 23 assists in 35 games.
Although the team earned just a tie in MacLeod’s return, she’s back just in time for Wisconsin, which will try to duplicate its late-season run of last year, when the Badgers closed out the season on a 15-3-0 tear.
The previous three seasons, Wisconsin has played at a .670 clip (32-15-3) after Jan. 1, compared to .600 (30-19-6) prior to that date. With a 2-2-1 start to 2003, the Badgers are looking for some wins to solidify their standing in the WCHA as well as trying to move up in the PairWise, where they are currently sixth.
Goalie Showdown In Mankato
This weekend’s series between Wisconsin and Minnesota State is a showdown between two of the league’s top goalies in Badger senior Jackie MacMillan and Maverick junior Shari Vogt.
MacMillan, who has played all of her team’s minutes this season, is a two-time all-conference honoree who has played 107 career games. She ranks eighth nationally with a 2.01 goals against average.
Vogt, who is facing 42 shots per game this season, is 11th nationally with a .919 save percentage and leads the nation with 737 saves.
In fact, despite playing over 2,400 fewer minutes in her career than MacMillan, Vogt has faced 65 more shots while maintaining nearly the same save percentage — MacMillan is at .911 and Vogt .909.
WCHA “House”Hold Hints
Bemidji State earned its first home sweep since Oct. 19-20, 2001 when it beat St. Cloud State, 3-1 and 6-1, over the weekend … BSU freshman forward Carly Napier collected her first career assist in Friday’s win … Freshman forward Cassi Petsch scored her first collegiate goal with 18 seconds left in the same game and collected her second goal Saturday afternoon … Senior forward Amber Fryklund notched her 50th career goal Friday … UMD rookie forward Caroline Ouellette’s hat trick in Sunday’s 8-1 win at Minnesota State was the 10th by a Bulldog this season … Ohio State defeated Findlay Sunday, 2-1, to claim the Ohio Cup for the third consecutive year …
Minnesota State has only been shut out twice this season … The school record for fewest shutouts is six … SCSU junior defenseman Kobi Kawamoto assisted on both Husky goals over the weekend, giving her a three-game point-scoring streak … She has doubled her season point total, from three to six, during that span … Wisconsin’s lone goal in Saturday’s 1-1 tie with No. 5 was its first in four meetings with the Wildcats … Wisconsin senior forward Kendra Antony recorded her 150th career point with the goal in the 1-1 tie against UNH.
Offensive Player of the Week–Katie Ward, So., F, Bemidji State
Defensive Player of the Week–Jill Luebke, Fr., G, St. Cloud State
Rookie of the Week–Caroline Ouellette, Fr., F, Minnesota-Duluth
No. 7 Wisconsin at Minnesota State (Friday-Saturday)
Wisconsin holds a 13-0-1 advantage in the all-time series and a 6-0-0 mark in Mankato … This weekend’s games are the only two games this season the Mavericks will play at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center … When the two teams played to a 3-3 tie in Madison, Nov. 30, it marked the first time Minnesota State had taken a point from the Badgers … Wisconsin has scored just six goals in five games in 2003 … All five of those games have come against teams ranked in the top seven in the Pairwise Rankings … Wisconsin opponents have compiled a .607 winning percentage thus far this season, ranking the Badgers’ schedule as the nation’s toughest … Eleven of Wisconsin’s 23 games have been against teams in the top 10 in the Pairwise … Minnesota State’s losses to No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth snapped a six-game unbeaten streak … With a 4-2-2 record in January, the Mavericks are guaranteed a winning record in a month for the first time since going 6-4-0 in January, 1999 … It will be the first winning record in a month for MSU against Division I opponents.
Ohio State at No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth (Friday-Saturday)
UMD is 14-1-2 all-time against Ohio State … The Bulldogs shutout the Buckeyes, 5-0 and 3-0, Nov. 8-9, in the teams’ last meeting … UMD owns a 5-0-1 record against OSU in Duluth … This weekend’s series will be played at Pioneer Hall, which is part of the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center … Four players will be absent from the lineups of their respective teams this weekend … The quartet or players are representing their countries in the European Challenge Cup, a three-game series between Sweden and Finland … The Bulldogs will be without the services of senior forwards Maria Rooth and Erika Holst, playing for Sweden, and junior defenseman Satu Kiipeli, playing for Finland … Buckeye junior defenseman Emma Laaksonen will team with Kiipeli on the Finnish blue line … UMD has scored at least four goals in 11 of its last 12 games … The Buckeyes have scored just seven goals in their last five games … They have outshot their opponent in 19 of 24 games … OSU has lost all five games in which it has been outshot … The Buckeyes had outshot their opponent in 12 consecutive games prior to Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mercyhurst.
North Dakota at St. Cloud State (Friday-Saturday)
St. Cloud State won the teams’ first two meetings, 4-2 and 2-0, Dec. 14-15 in Grand Forks … The Sioux are 4-1-0 since that time, including a 2-1 win at Bemidji State, Jan. 18, where the Huskies were swept in a two-game series this past weekend … UND has scored 22 goals in its last five games … The Sioux have outshot all five opponents and are averaging 38 shots per game during that time … UND freshman goalie Amber Hasbargen has won four consecutive decisions … Junior forward Sherri White has an eight-game scoring streak, notching eight goals and 11 points during that time … St. Cloud State has scored just seven goals in its last six games … SCSU senior goalie Laura Gieselman has stopped 83 of 88 shots in her last three games … Senior forward Abby Cooper set a school record Friday, playing in her 127th career game … The Huskies are 7-0-0 when tied or leading after two periods this season … They are 0-17-0 when trailing after two periods … SCSU is the only WCHA without a tie on its record this season and one of just five teams in Division I without a tie … The Huskies have not played to a tie since Oct. 27, 2001, when they played to a 4-4 tie at Bemidji State … Their last overtime game was a 3-2 home loss to Minnesota State, Jan. 26, 2002 … St. Cloud State has now played 32 consecutive games without going to overtime.
No. 3 Minnesota at Bemidji State (Saturday-Sunday)
Minnesota leads the all-time series 12-0-3 … All three ties have been 2-2 scores and have come in the teams’ last six meetings … The Gophers are 6-0-1 at John Glas Fieldhouse in Bemidji … BSU is ending a seven-game homestand with this weekend’s series … Beaver senior forward Lill Raynard has two goals and five assists in her last five games … Sophomore forward Katie Ward doubled her season scoring total with four points in Saturday’s win … Bemidji State is 0-9-3 when trailing after two periods this season and 7-0-3 when leading after 40 minutes … The Gophers converted five of seven power-play opportunities in splitting games with Dartmouth and New Hampshire, Jan. 17-18 … They are 7-for-16 in four games since returning from the holiday break … Minnesota is 29-for-31 killing penalties over its last six games.