2015-16 Team-by-Team Previews: Bemidji State Beavers

2015-16 Roster | 2015-16 Schedule

Head Coach: Jim Scanlan (2nd Season)
2015-16 Captains: Unannounced-Stephanie Anderson (A) in 2014-15

2014-15 Season Recap

Record: 21-17-1 (13-14-1-1 WCHA/5th place)
WCHA Postseason: Conference runner-ups; advanced to WCHA Final Face-Off with quarterfinal series win vs. Minnesota Duluth, defeated Minnesota 1-0 in semifinals, lost to Wisconsin in championship game

The Beavers seemed to take a giant leap forward under first-year head coach Jim Scanlan last season, going further in the postseason than any Bemidji State team has ever done. They picked up a sweep over Robert Morris and two more non-conference wins early over Vermont and RPI, and were then swept by both Ohio State and Wisconsin. But the month of November had more exciting things in store for the squad. Over Halloween weekend, Bemidji State took five of six points from Minnesota on the road, earning a shootout win and 1-0 victory. They then had a big showing at home, sweeping North Dakota after a bye week and splitting with Minnesota Duluth the weekend after.

BSU went on to win its next three WCHA match-ups before dropping its last three games of 2014, one to St. Cloud State and two to Ohio State again. There were some definite bumps in the road in January; the Beavers salvaged a split with Lindenwood to open the 2015 calendar year and split with the Bulldogs again the following weekend. On the road in Madison, Bemidji State earned a big 2-1 win and then fell in a tough 2-1 overtime loss to Wisconsin. They closed out the month-long road trip in Grand Forks, where UND returned the favor from November and swept the Beavers handily.

They turned around with two sweeps of their own over Minnesota State and St. Cloud State, and ended the regular season with a series at home against Minnesota. Despite two hard-fought match-ups, BSU couldn’t take any more points from the Gophers, and headed into a quarterfinal series match-up with Minnesota Duluth the next weekend. After winning the first game, 3-2, the Beavers dropped a 1-0 decision in game two. In the deciding game three, Kaitlyn Tougas scored the game-winning goal in overtime to help the team advance to the WCHA Final Face-Off.

In the semifinal match-up against Minnesota, Bemidji State earned a 1-0 win over the Gophers to advance to the WCHA championship game for the first time in program history. Just a game away from the NCAA Tournament, they could not complete their run, falling to Wisconsin 4-0 in the conference title game.

A large part of the Beavers’ success last season was due to the play of goaltender Brittni Mowat, who was named a First Team All-American following the season. She was also selected to the All-WCHA First Team, and teammate Alexis Joyce was named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team. Head coach Jim Scanlan was named both the WCHA Coach of the Year and the USCHO.com National Coach of the Year. The Beavers also had some representation on the international stage, as Stephanie Anderson became the first player in program history to be named to the U.S. Women’s National Team, winning a gold medal with the squad at the 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championships.

Meet the Newcomers

D Melissa Hunt, Canadian Under-18 Team, Westman Wildcats

A native of Hartney, Manitoba, Hunt was an alternate on the Team Manitoba roster back in the ninth and tenth grades. She earned a spot on the MFMHL all-star team in each of the past two seasons, and won a silver medal with the Canadian U18s at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships this past season. Hunt also participated in the IIHF High Performance Camp in Vierumaki, Finland, back in the spring of 2014.

Coach Scanlan on Hunt (via BSUBeavers.com):

“Melissa is an outstanding skater who will bring quickness and speed to our line up and is a shut down defenseman but has good offensive instincts as well,” commented Scanlan. “She participated this summer with Team Canada’s National 18U team in a series versus Team USA and was recently named to Canada’s National 18U team tryout roster for the World Championships later this season. Off the ice she is an excellent student who will be an outstanding ambassador for our team and Bemidji State University.”

D Lisa Laiti, Northern Cyclones

Laiti helped her 14U club team to the Tier II national championship back in 2012. Hailing from Fairbanks, Alaska, she also competed in the Pacific District Selects Camp for four years.

Coach Scanlan on Laiti (via BSUBeavers.com):

“Lisa has great skill, with exceptional speed and lateral movement with the ability to take away space which can be very difficult for opposing forwards to play against,” said Scanlan. “She also has a good offensive understanding and is very skilled when she gets the puck and is poised on the blue line but can jump up offensively.  With her ability to add offense, she will be a great addition to our d-core.”

D Natalie Stanwood, Pursuit of Excellence

Stanwood made the cut for Team British Columbia in 2013-14 and 2014-15, and also skated for Team Pacific for four seasons. She also won the 2010 Bantam AAA provincial championship back in 2010.

Coach Scanlan on Stanwood (via BSUBeavers.com):

“Natalie brings a lot of energy, with exceptional speed, and possesses great habits and you notice right away her ability to move on the ice,” remarked Scanlan. “She has an impressive passion for the game and with a high competition level that is not afraid to get her nose dirty in the tough areas of the ice.  She is a puck mover who is very difficult to play against without taking penalties and is a tremendous athlete.”

F Sylvia Marolt, Thief River Falls High School

In her high school career, Marolt had posted totals of 101 goals and 79 assists as of her signing in November. She’s a four-time All-Greater Minnesota Conference selection and was a three-year captain for Thief River Falls.

Coach Scanlan on Marolt (via BSUBeavers.com):

“Sylvia is a hard working skilled forward that skates fast, plays hard and blocks shots,” remarked Scanlan. “She creates opportunities by her persistence moving the puck well and finishing around the net.”

F Emily Bergland, Thief River Falls High School

A teammate of Marolt’s in high school, Bergland earned six letters playing hockey at Thief River Falls. As of her signing, she had posted 92 goals and 99 assists for 191 points in her high school career. She helped the Prowlers earn a berth in the state tournament during her career there.

Coach Scanlan on Bergland (via BSUBeavers.com):

“Emily is a skilled forward that sees the ice well, makes plays while making her teammates better,” said Scanlan. “She is a natural goal scorer who is also an outstanding athlete and a very good leader.”

2015-16 Season Preview

Key Departures: F Alexandria Citrowske, F Kristine Grenier, D Kayleigh Chapman
Key Returners: G Brittni Mowat, F Kaitlyn Tougas, F Stephanie Anderson, F Hanna Moher, D Ivana Bilic, D Alexis Joyce, D Madison Hutchinson
Key Additions: D Melissa Hunt, D Natalie Stanwood

After posting perhaps the best season in program history last year, the Beavers will be shooting to improve upon that and establish themselves as a truly competitive team night in and night out. With a slew of upsets to their name last season, including that all-important shutout against the Gophers to reach the WCHA title game, they’ve already made it clear that they’re not a club to be taken lightly. But this season, they’ll want to take another step forward and become a team that’s more heavily favored, specifically with hopes of breaking into the conference’s top-four teams.

The biggest reason for the team’s success last season was their defensive play. Bemidji State made a name for itself as a stingy team that blocks a ton of shots and gives up little in the middle of the ice, especially in front of the net. This means that they spend a significant amount of time without the puck, but they had their share of success even so. Ivana Bilic led the squad with 147 blocked shots while posting 23 points from the blue line, and will figure in as the Beavers’ defensive anchor once again. Alexis Joyce had a solid rookie season, finishing fourth on the entire roster in points with 18, and junior Madison Hutchinson has developed into another good top-four player. It’ll be intriguing as well to watch the development of BSU’s freshmen on the blue line, namely Canadian U18 Team alum Melissa Hunt, as well as Natalie Stanwood, whose puck-moving abilities were lauded by Scanlan.

The Beavers didn’t have an explosive offense last season, but they did have a few players who were known to chip in on a consistent basis, namely Kaitlyn Tougas and Stephanie Anderson. The graduation of Alexandria Citrowske makes for a pretty notable loss among that top-six, and the same goes for Kristine Grenier. Bemidji State is adding two freshmen forwards, Sylvia Marolt and Emily Bergland, both out of Thief River Falls High School (Minn.). Getting those two to produce right away will probably be a stretch; instead, the Beavers will have to look to their returning players, such as seniors Hanna Moher and Kristin Huber, for added offense. They’ll also hope to see Tougas and Anderson build off 27-point and 24-point seasons, respectively, in order to further boost the offense.

Bemidji State’s commitment to defense was one reason why they were so competitive last year against some of the top teams in the country; the goaltending of Brittni Mowat was another. Now a junior, Mowat should once again provide the Beavers with plenty of quality starts. Earning a First Team All-America nod last season, she posted a .945 save percentage, 1.68 goals-against average, and seven shutouts in 33 games, all while facing over 1,000 shots on the season. She was third in the nation in total saves with 949, and also ranked third in save percentage among all goaltenders, an impressive combination.

While goals may be difficult for the Beavers to come by at times, they do at least have two proven reliable scorers in Tougas and Anderson, with some room for growth for others on the roster. It could end up being very exciting to watch Bemidji State grow defensively this year, as long as Bilic, Hutchinson, and Joyce continuing tracking upwards. If they can get some contributions from their freshmen, they could ice a strong and balanced defensive corps. One thing of note from last season that BSU will need to improve on: they were one of just three teams in the conference to be in the negatives in average shots-on-goal differential. If the Beavers can find a way to spend more time in their opponent’s end than their own, they’ll have a good shot at establishing themselves as a top-four team in the WCHA.

Schedule Highlights

Sept. 25-26 vs. Robert Morris
Oct. 2-3 at Vermont
Oct. 9-10 vs. Minnesota Duluth
Nov. 6-7 at Ohio State
Nov. 13-14 at Minnesota
Dec. 4 vs. North Dakota
Dec. 6 at North Dakota
Jan. 15-16 vs. Wisconsin
Jan. 29-30 vs. Minnesota
Feb. 12-13 vs. Ohio State

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