BEMIDJI, Minn. (Bemidji Regional Event Center) -- Sooner or later is was bound to happen.
In a series spanning 50 games and over a decade, the Bemidji State University women's hockey team was due for a break in the lopsided rivalry and tonight it came off the stick of sophomore forward Emily Erickson (Coleraine, Minn.) in the form of a power-play goal.
Locked in a scoreless tie with No. 3 University of Minnesota Duluth through more than 53 minutes of play, Bemidji State's head coach Steve Sertich called a time out to allow his top power-play unit to catch its breath. The Beavers returned from the break to complete the power-play with a face off in their own offensive zone. Senior Annie Bauerfeld (F, Woodbury, Minn.) won the face off to Erin Cody (Sr., F, Roseville, Minn.) at the top of the circle. Chased by a Bulldog defender, Cody found Erika Wheelhouse (So., D, Crookston, Minn.) across the slot. Wheelhouse centred the puck to Erickson who was crashing the net and tipped the puck passed the blocker of UMD goaltender Kim Martin, just inside the left post. The marker gave the Beavers a 1-0 lead with 5:35 left in the third period and that was the way it would stay.
"Our special teams won the game for us," said Sertich. "We got a power-play goal, our penalty killers killed penalties and our goaltender was outstanding.
"This was a great win for our program."
Erickson's power-play goal was the last of many quality scoring opportunities for the Beavers, who were out shot 38-31 in the game, but was the only scoring attempt by either team to breach the goal line.
In addition to Martin's 30 saves, BSU goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova (Jr., Bratislava, Slovakia) turned away 38 Minnesota Duluth shots, including 17 in the third period alone, to single-handedly keep BSU in the game during stretches of the second and third period.
The victory pushed the junior's record 4-3-0 in 2010-11 with three come by way of a shutout.
The Beavers came out of the gates on their heels. UMD jumped out to a 6-1 lead in shots on goal in the opening minutes of the game but a Bulldog penalty and productive Bemidji State power-play opportunity late in the first put the Beavers in the locker with a 11-9 lead in shots on goal, while the game was knotted at 0-0 heading into the first intermission.
Goaltending was the name of the game in the second period. In a back-and-fourth 20 minutes of play that saw each team with two power-play chances, it was the Beavers who played the role of the aggressor, but each goaltender stood strong to keep the teams locked in a scoreless tie.
In the period, Bauerfeld gave BSU its best shot a breaking the tie when she picked off a pass in the neutral zone early and skated in untouched only to fire a one-on-one wrist shot into the chest of Martin.
On the other end, Tomcikova was a rock for the Beavers turning away shot after shot and despite a pair of UMD shots that rang off the pipe in the stanza, BSU went into the third with a win well within reach.
"This is our home now and I think we've played well here," commented Sertich. "We have been playing the top teams toe to toe, and we've got some momentum going.
"It's been fun to win games in this building."
Erickson knows the win was monumental for the program but she and the rest of the team are taking it in stride.
"We have a lot of skill on this team and every girl in the locker room knows it," said the sophomore. "We're just going out this year to prove it to everyone else."
"We're ready to make history all season long."
The win extends BSU's current wining streak to four game and marks the team's second consecutive victory over a team ranked among the top 5 in the most recent USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. BSU also toppled then-No. 1 Mercyhurst, 5-3, Oct. 16. Bemidji State (5-4-0; 3-2-0-0 WCHA) looks to continue its wining ways tomorrow evening as it host the same Minnesota Duluth (7-2-0; 4-2-0-0 WCHA) team for the second half of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) series. The opening face off is set for 6:07 p.m. at the Bemidji Regional Event Center.