WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Verkerke scores 1st career goal as Beavers dominate UST
Claudia Verkerke has been at this for a while. Before this season started, the Bemidji State women’s hockey senior forward was voted the Beavers’ captain by her teammates, a demonstration of her leadership and willingness to embrace her role on the team.
BEMIDJI -- Claudia Verkerke has been at this for a while.
Before this season started, the Bemidji State women’s hockey senior forward was voted the Beavers’ captain by her teammates, a demonstration of her leadership and willingness to embrace her role on the team.
But her first career goal had been elusive.
She found it during the second period on Saturday at the Sanford Center, as a Makenna Deering shot bounced off St. Thomas goaltender Alexa Dobchuk and right to Verkerke’s stick. She buried it past Dobchuk and created the highlight of BSU’s 4-0 win over the Tommies.
“I've been here for four years, so I've been waiting for that moment,” Verkerke said. “And it was just as surreal as I was hoping. Just having my teammates’ support just validates all the value I place in my relationships with my teammates. And having them be happy for me is probably the best part of it.”
Bemidji State’s bench erupted after Verkerke’s score. The celebration didn’t end there, either, as it continued into the locker room between periods.
“The reaction from her teammates is the neatest thing to see,” BSU head coach Jim Scanlan said. “Not just on the ice, not just on the bench, but even walking to the locker room between the second and third period, just all the hugs she was getting from her teammates. That's how much she means to them.”
Scanlan said it was a moment he won’t soon forget.
“That was just really, really cool to see her score,” he said. “Just to see the team's reaction, because to me, that's what it's all about. Those are the things you'll always remember. Those are the memories you're always going to have.”
The Beavers (10-13-3, 7-13-2 WCHA) got the scoring started in the first period, as Reece Hunt poked in a rebound at 11:19 off assists from Claire Vekich and Alyssa Watkins.
Verkerke got hers at 11:04 in the second period, maintaining her presence around the net and tapping in Deering’s rebounded shot. Vekich added the Beavers’ third goal at 18:19, one that snuck through in the midst of traffic outside the net.
Taylor Nelson knocked in a fourth strike off the left post at 5:27 in the third, putting the game out of reach.
The victory was a rare low-pressure triumph for Bemidji State in a season that has been full of difficult opponents and hard-fought games. In addition to improving Scanlan’s heart health -- as he alluded to tongue-in-cheek -- the Beavers had plenty of reasons to enjoy this win, including getting scoring from their second, third and fourth lines.
“We've had a lot of really intense games,” Scanlan said. “This one wasn't quite so tense, which is certainly good for the coach's health. It was fun. The group played really hard.”
Fifth-year senior goaltender Kerigan Dowhy recorded 20 saves to earn the shutout for the Beavers, her first since the season opener on Oct. 1, which also came against St. Thomas (4-19-1, 2-17-1 WCHA). UST netminder Alexa Dobchuk collected 35 stops on 39 BSU shots. She was relieved midway through the third period by Eryn Cooley, who tallied 15 saves down the stretch.
Next up for Bemidji State is a trip to No. 2 Minnesota. The Beavers will face the Gophers at 6:01 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 4, and 4:01 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5, in Minneapolis.
Bemidji State 4, St. Thomas 0
UST 0 0 0 -- 0
BSU 1 2 1 -- 4
First period -- 1, BSU GOAL, Hunt (Vekich, Watkins), 11:19.
Second period -- 2, BSU GOAL, Verkerke (Deering), 11:04; 3, BSU GOAL, Vekich (Hunt, Fortin), 18:19.
Third period -- 4, BSU GOAL, Nelson (Smith, Featherstone), 5:27
Saves -- Dowhy (BSU) 20; Dobchuk (UST) 35; Cooley (UST) 15.