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Taylor Nelson, Gabbie Smith combine for OT winner in Bemidji State's season opener

Despite surrendering two one-goal leads – including one in the third period – the Beavers rallied with Taylor Nelson’s goal off a slick assist from Gabbie Smith just 1:28 into overtime.

092822.S.BP.BSUWHKY Calli Forsberg Celebration.jpg
The Beavers celebrate after junior Calli Forsberg scored during the third period against Lindenwood on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- Every team likes to start off the year with a win.

It took a little longer than they would have liked, but the Bemidji State women’s hockey team managed to do just that during its season opener at the Sanford Center. Despite surrendering two one-goal leads – including one in the third period – the Beavers rallied with Taylor Nelson’s goal off a slick assist from Gabbie Smith just 1:28 into overtime, picking up a 3-2 win over Lindenwood to start the new year.

“I don't care who you're playing, whatever – you get wins at this level, they're all big,” BSU head coach Jim Scanlan said. “I don't want to say it was important for our group to get a win tonight, but it certainly helps.”

Liberated by the open ice available thanks to the 3-on-3 overtime setup, Smith maneuvered into position in the slot, then found Nelson right in front of the crease for a great opportunity. Nelson made sure that chance – and an opportunity to win BSU’s first game – didn’t go to waste.

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Bemidji State junior Taylor Nelson (8) celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against Lindenwood on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“I had a shot that I probably should have scored, but then I got the puck back, and I wheeled around and nobody came to me,” Smith said. “Then someone slightly came to me. So I pulled around, saw Taylor backdoor, and she finished it.”

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Scanlan admired his group’s perseverance after losing two leads – especially in the first game of the season, when players are somewhat nervous and the complexion of a contest can change expeditiously.

“To handle that adversity and then come out with a win was big,” Scanlan said.

Commencing the year with a nonconference opponent in the Lions (0-1) enabled Bemidji State’s freshmen to settle into a game setting without having to match up against a top-five team, as they often have to do in the formidable WCHA.

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Bemidji State junior Gabbie Smith (20) faces off against Lindenwood's Sarah Davies (7) during the third period on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“Playing a nonconference game is a really good start to our season, because it gives our freshmen the feel of the pace of the game,” Nelson said. “Obviously, the WCHA is a really tough league, so getting that under our belt and going from there, it's really good.”

“I agree with everything she said,” Smith added. “Nailed that.”

Earlier in the contest, Alyssa Watkins scored the Beavers’ first goal of the year on a shot from the right circle 6:43 into the first period. Bemidji State (1-0) held that lead into the second period, but Lindenwood countered with a score by Morgan Neitzke at 13:34.

Calli Forsberg countered with another goal from the right side 1:44 into the third period, but yet again, Lindenwood lit the lamp in response. This time, Sarah Davies knocked in a score 9:54 into the third as chaos reigned in front of the net.

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Bemidji State sophomore Alyssa Watkins (16) shoots the puck to score during the first period against Lindenwood on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The latter goal was reviewed, as the net temporarily lifted off its moorings, but it ultimately stood. Still, BSU got back off the mat and had enough juice left to bag a game-winner.

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“It's the confidence,” said Scanlan of what Bemidji State gains from the victory. “The group feels good about themselves, feels good about how the game went. Going to bed tonight is going to be a lot easier for them having won the game.”

As Nelson alluded to, once they settled into their first game, BSU’s freshmen showcased quite a bit of skillful play. The Beavers entered the contest with a third line comprised entirely of first-years, and that youthful group managed to generate numerous scoring chances.

“The first period, they kind of looked like freshmen,” Scanlan said of the rookies. “But I thought as the game went on, they started showing the skills they have.”

The Beavers will try to get the sweep at 3:01 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, back at the Sanford Center.

Bemidji State 3, Lindenwood 2 (OT)

LU 0 1 1 0 -- 2

BSU 1 0 1 1 -- 3

First period -- 1, BSU GOAL, Watkins (Fortin, Breiland), 6:43.

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Second period -- 2, LU GOAL, Neitzke (Davies, Jorgensen), 13:34.

Third period -- 3, BSU GOAL, Forsberg (Anick), 1:44; 4, LU GOAL, Davies (Neitzke, McLaren), 9:54.

Overtime – 5, BSU GOAL, Nelson (Smith), 1:28, 3v3.

Saves -- Hogenson (BSU) 25; Ferenc (LU) 31.

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Bemidji State junior Hannah Hogenson deflects the puck during the second period against Lindenwood on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji State sophomore Makenna Deering (2) fights for the puck during the second period against Lindenwood on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
092822.S.BP.BSUWHKY Adriana Van De Leest.jpg
Bemidji State sophomore Adriana Van De Leest (24) moves the puck during the second period against Lindenwood on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
092822.S.BP.BSUWHKY Abby Delarosa.jpg
Bemidji State senior Abby Delarosa (5) fights for the puck during the first period against Lindenwood on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Related Topics: BEMIDJI STATE BEAVERS
Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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