Preview: Bemidji State women’s hockey hosts No. 10 Providence in season opener

Bemidji State's (from left) Emily Erickson, Montana Vichorek and Sadie Lundquist. BSU opens the regular season Saturday and Sunday against No. 10 Providence at the Sanford Center. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

The Bemidji State women’s hockey team opens the season tonight and defenseman Montana Vichorek feels the Beavers are ready to face No. 10-ranked Providence.

“I think we’re finally not so sore from practice starting, we’re getting in shape and our game last weekend helped us a lot,” Vichorek said. “We usually aren’t big scorers and we’re not going to score 10 goals a game, so I think we’re going to be comfortable with our games this weekend.”

BSU plays Providence at the Sanford Center on Friday at 7:07 and Saturday at 4:07 p.m.

The Beavers already have game experience and are coming off a 10-3 exhibition win over the Thunder Bay Queens last Friday at the Sanford Center.

“We had typical first-game issues out there, offensively we had some good chances and defensively we had some holes – we’re going to have to correct that with Providence coming in this weekend,” Bemidji State head coach Steve Sertich said.

Defense and goaltending are Bemidji State’s primary strength entering the season.

Vichorek and Marlee Wheelhouse are the seniors leading the way on the blue line along with Kim Lieder and Erika Wheelhouse.

In goal the Beavers have an experienced tandem in seniors Zuzana Tomcikova and Alana McElhinney. Tomcikova, who played in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for Slovakia, has started 84 career games and McElhinney has appeared 30 career games for BSU.

Offense is the big question entering the season with the departure of graduated forwards Erin Cody, Annie Bauerfeld and Erin Johnson. Those three combined to score 32 of BSU’s 70 goals last season. Vichorek admitted the seniors are feeling some pressure to fill that void.

“We’re the seniors so we have to step it up to fill their shoes and try and get the younger girls to step up too,” Vichorek said. “We need to put the puck in the net or we’re not going to win games.”

Juniors Emily Erickson and Sadie Lundquist are BSU’s cornerstones at forward. Erickson had a breakout season last year as a sophomore with 16 goals and 27 points. Ludquist had eight goals and 22 points.

“Scoring is something we’re a little concerned about and we’re hoping someone can jump up and take that spot,” Sertich said. “It’s not just five-on-five. We need to have kids who can win a game for us on the power play.”

BSU has a road-heavy first half of the schedule. Following this weekend the Beavers go on a four-game road trip to Ohio State (Oct. 7-8) and Maine (Oct. 14-15) before returning home for a four game homestand against St. Cloud State (Oct. 21-22) and Minnesota (Oct. 28-29). Then there are six road games in a row before Thanksgiving.

Follow Eric Stromgren on Twitter at @estromgren and on Facebook.