BEMIDJI -- Nothing could boost a team’s confidence like a win over the nation’s No. 1 squad.
That’s exactly what the Bemidji State women’s hockey team did last Saturday, holding off Wisconsin for a 3-2 upset victory.
“It’s always a big weekend when you can beat a team ranked that high and with that much talent,” redshirt junior goalie Lauren Bench said. “(That’s) three big points for us, which is exciting. It adds a lot of confidence going into this weekend just knowing that we can score goals and we can beat any team.”
The win was the program’s second over the top-ranked Badgers in as many seasons and its fourth all time.
“They’re always memorable,” head coach Jim Scanlan said. “But at the same time, you’ve just got to keep things in perspective and look at the big picture. To me it’s getting those three points and putting ourselves three more points ahead of the people that are chasing us.”
Those three points could be pivotal as the WCHA playoff race heats up this weekend when the Beavers hit the road to meet another ranked opponent in No. 10 Minnesota Duluth.
The teams clashed only two weeks ago in the Minnesota Cup championship game in Duluth, a 2-0 UMD win highlighted by Maddie Rooney’s 38-save shutout.
The Bulldogs (9-8-3, 4-6-2-1 WCHA) sit just six points behind Bemidji State (13-10-1, 7-7-0-0 WCHA) for fourth place in the league standings, though Minnesota Duluth has two games in hand. As things stand, BSU would own home ice as the No. 4 seed and host No. 5 UMD in the first round of the playoffs.
The northern Minnesota rivals are no strangers.
The schools have met in the WCHA quarterfinals in four of the last five seasons. This weekend will be the 35th and 36th time they’ve played in the last six seasons.
“It’s definitely built a huge rivalry for sure,” Bench said. “I think going into the weekend we get a little more excited I think to play them because we play them so much. … I think we know going into the season there’s a good chance you might end up playing them (in the playoffs). And so I think going into games during the season, it gets a little bit extra gritty to go into those games and know it’ll give us huge confidence at the end of the season if we have some wins over them.”
The Bulldogs had last weekend off so they’ll be seeing the Beavers in three consecutive games.
In its last trip to Amsoil Arena, Bemidji State mustered only one goal -- in a 1-0 semifinal win over St. Cloud State -- during the Minnesota Cup. No struggles were to be found on offense last weekend as BSU hung five goals on the Badgers and came just one goal short in a 3-2 loss Friday.
“I just like the way we played our last three games,” Scanlan said. “I thought we played an outstanding game over in Duluth in the championship game of the Minnesota Cup. And to follow that up with two really strong games against, obviously, a very good team is encouraging at this time of the year. And now our challenge is to keep doing the same thing going forward. We know we’re playing a very, very good team in their rink and it’s going to be a battle.”
At a glance
Who: BSU at Minnesota Duluth
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday; 4:07 p.m. Saturday
Radio: Beaver Radio Network/1300 AM & 94.3 FM