The Bemidji State Beavers women’s hockey team came into this afternoon’s game needing a win to make it to the NCAA tourney. Lose and they go home. Win and they hit pay dirt.
Win or not, it was a historic season for the BSU women. This year was the first time that Bemidji State Women had ever had a chance to play for a WCHA title. Unfortunately, that title will have to wait as the Badgers ended the Beavers Cinderella season. The Badgers jumped to an early lead and never trailed winning 4-0 to get the auto-bid to the NCAA tourney.
For the five Wisconsin seniors, they finally had an opportunity to play for a championship after being knocked out in the semis the past three seasons.
“Five of seniors for the past three years, we haven’t had an opportunity to play in this game,” senior forward Karley Sylvester said. “We kind of stressed that over the past week. We kind of drove that into everyone’s head, and to come out yesterday and beat a hard working North Dakota team that was big for us. That carried over into today’s game.”
“We wanted to play for a championship,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “We got ourselves in a position to do that and I thought for three periods we played really sound hockey and over the course of the weekend played six real good periods, so I’m happy for the players and certainly happy for our staff.”
The Badgers were a buzz saw all weekend long. They never gave the Beavers much of a chance to get set up in the offensive zone and when did, the Badgers blocked the Beavers shots.
When the Beavers were able to get a shot through the defenders, sophomore goalie Ann-Rene’e Desbiens was there to make the save. Desbiens was solid all weekend stopping 41-of-42 shots. With the win, Desbiens improved to 26-4-4 on the season.
Credit to the Badgers defense, much like Saturday’s game against UND, the Badgers gave the Beavers no time and space. You could say that the Badgers play flawless hockey all weekend long.
“Give Wisconsin credit, because they came out of the gates hard,” head coach Jim Scanlan. They were able to extend it (the lead). They’re such a quality team defensively. They don’t give you many chances to begin with. When you do get them, they have an outstanding goalie and I thought she was on today. She wasn’t fighting the puck what-so-ever. She was playing with a lot of confidence. I could tell it would be hard to get anything by her.”
The story of the weekend was the play of sophomore forward Sarah Nurse who was awarded the tournament’s WCHA Final Face-Off’s Most Outstanding Player. Nurse scored two goals and added an assist to lead the Badgers past the Beavers.
How good was Nurse? The sophomore forward who’s listed as a third line forward scored four of Wisconsin’s eight goals this weekend and assisted on two others. Nurse finished the weekend with (4g-2a—6pts).
“I think just our whole team is playing well,” Nurse said. We have a ton of energy, we’re really excited to be on the ice every single sift. Just feeding off the energy of the team is just helping our game.”
Moving forward, there are a lot of positives for the Beavers.
“I had coach Bob Peters, legendary head coach of Bemidji State come and talk to the team on Tuesday,” coach Scanlan said. “He kind of gave the ladies a history of the WCHA and he said look at Wisconsin, Minnesota perennially always there, Duluth… and North Dakota is starting to creep in. You know what? Bemidji State is in the neighborhood. I told the ladies, now our challenge is to stay there.”
With the win, the Badgers improve to 28-6-4 and are headed to the NCAA tournament to host Boston University 25-8-3 in the first round. The Beavers finish the season 21-17-1.