Adriana Van De Leest, sophomore D-corps growing up for Bemidji State
Bemidji State consistently played freshmen Ella Anick, Makenna Deering, Kendra Fortin, Taylor Larson and Adriana Van De Leest last season. Now, those five are no longer the new kids on the block.
BEMIDJI – The Bemidji State women’s hockey team has had a young group of defensemen dating back to the 2021-22 season.
The Beavers consistently played freshmen Ella Anick, Makenna Deering, Kendra Fortin, Taylor Larson and Adriana Van De Leest that year, leaning on the newcomers’ potential despite their inexperience. Now, those five are sophomores, and they’re no longer the new kids on the block.
“The difference for most of us (is) the confidence,” Van De Leest said. “Having that first year under our belt… just more confidence in knowing what we’re up against. We do have such a big class that we are a majority of the team, it feels like. Being that year older, still an underclassman, you can still lead. … Us not having fifth-years on our team this year definitely changes the dynamic.”
BSU lost a number of impactful fifth-years from last year’s squad – forwards Paige Beebe and Lydia Passolt exhausted their eligibility, as did goaltender Kerigan Dowhy. When senior Graysen Myers – also a key piece – decided not to return for her fifth season, the alchemy of Bemidji State’s leadership changed significantly.
It’s created a new reality for this year’s BSU team, one that has required players to step into new roles. So far, the growth of the Beavers’ young defensemen has been encouraging in that regard.
“It can be a very, very humbling league,” BSU head coach Jim Scanlan said of the WCHA. “They play against some really, really outstanding players. Going through those experiences last year has certainly helped them.”
Scanlan has especially liked what he’s seen this season from Van De Leest, who brings unique length to the table.
“In Adriana’s case, you could see her confidence level right from day one was way up there,” Scanlan said. “She knew she belonged, she knew she could play in the league. She got off to a great start for us in our first series with Lindenwood, I think she had three or four points, and for a while led our team in scoring.
“... She's almost 6 feet, you put her on skates, it’s 6-2. That's a long reach. I tell her she can reach from here to Blackduck, so she has to be able to utilize that as one of her strengths. She's doing a lot better job. When she puts stick on puck, as a player coming at her, just the visualization of somebody's stick that long, it's going to affect how they want to play. She's physical.”
Bemidji State (4-15-1, 1-13 WCHA) is looking to snap a seven-game losing streak in WCHA play this week, and it’ll have an opportunity against St. Thomas (3-14-1, 0-13-1 WCHA). The Tommies trail the Beavers by one point in the conference standings and are winless in conference play so far this season, but UST is coming off a road shootout victory over No. 8 Minnesota Duluth.
If BSU wants to pick up points this weekend, its rapidly maturing defensive corps will likely play a big role.
“It's exciting for all of those younger defensemen, to see them continue to grow and continue to get better,” Scanlan said.
Bemidji State matches up with St. Thomas at 2:01 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 16-17, in Mendota Heights.