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2020-21 NCAA Preview: WCHA, part 1

Previewing the season for Bemidji State, St. Cloud State, and Minnesota State

Bemidji State forward Clair DeGeorge (#26) carries the puck during a game against St. Cloud State. BSU Photo Services

With the season nearly under way, here’s a look at how I see things unfolding for the Beavers, Mavericks, and Huskies.

Bemidji State

Key Losses:

  • Haley Mack, F: Led the team with 15 goals and 28 points in 2019-20.
  • Kiki Radke, F: Finished third on the Beavers with 19 points last season. Also a key player in the faceoff circle, winning 379 draws (52.6%).
  • Abby Halluska, F: Finished in the top-five in scoring with 16 points.
  • Lauren Bench, G: Posted a .919 save percentage and 2.25 goals-against average.

Key Returners:

  • Clair DeGeorge, Senior, F: Led the team with 15 assists and finished second with 22 points.
  • Reece Hunt, Sophomore, F: Posted 19 points as a rookie to tie for third on the team in scoring.
  • Lydia Passolt, Senior, F: Finished second on the team with 10 goals on the year.
  • Mak Langei, Senior, D: Led the D in scoring with 15 points, off of 2 goals and 13 assists.
  • Tina Kampa, Senior, D: Blocked 100 shots for the BSU defense last season and totaled 13 assists on the year.
  • Kerigan Dowhy, Senior, G: Started 4 games last season as Bench’s back-up, posting a .915 save percentage and 2.22 GAA.

Season Outlook:

Bemidji State will need to replace some quality goaltending from Bench, who’s heading to Minnesota this season as a grad transfer. Dowhy, a senior, has some experience and potential on that front, and the Beavers are also adding Hannah Hogenson, who won silver with the U.S. U18 Team at the 2019 U18 World Championship. They’ll also need to fill the gap left by Haley Mack up front, but they bring back some talented forwards in their top-six. Clair DeGeorge has earned some playing time within the last season with the U.S. senior national team, and Reece Hunt looked really good down the stretch last year.

With Langei and Kampa leading the way on the back end, I would expect the Beavers to be their usual stingy, defensive-minded selves this season. They’ll make it difficult to get to the middle of the ice, which should help with the transition in goal, too. Bemidji State always seems due for a few big spoiler wins, but I don’t see them moving into the top half of the conference this season.

Minnesota State

Key Losses:

  • Emily Antony, F: Finished second on the Mavericks with 22 points last season.
  • McKenzie Sederberg, D: Second-highest scoring defender for MSU last year with 13 points.
  • Abigail Levy, G: Transferred to Boston College after posting a .903 save percentage and 2.97 GAA.

Key Returners:

  • Kelsey King, Sophomore, F: Turned in a pretty strong rookie performance to earn an invite to USA Hockey’s fall evaluation camp. Finished with 22 points, tied for second on the team.
  • Brittyn Fleming, Senior, F: Finished fourth on the team with 18 points in 2019-20.
  • Mariah Gardner, Senior, F: Chipped in 16 points to finish top-five on the team and was also heavily relied upon in the faceoff circle for the Mavericks.
  • Anna Wilgren, Junior, D: As a defender, led the team with 18 assists and 24 points last season. Also led the squad with 98 blocked shots.
  • Tristen Truax, Senior, D: Tied for first on the team with eight goals and added 83 blocked shots at the other end of the ice.
  • Calla Frank, Sophomore, G: Traded starts with Levy for much of the year last year and finished with a .912 save percentage and 2.74 GAA.

Season Outlook:

We’ve seen quite a few goalie transfers this offseason and Minnesota State was a team on the losing end of one of those, with Levy electing to transfer to BC. But out of that tandem last season, Frank seemed to have the edge, and she’ll be a major factor in the Mavericks’ competitiveness this season. While they’re short on depth at both ends of the ice, they have a few players who are gaining notoriety on a national level: Frank, King, and Wilgren were all invited to USA Hockey’s evaluation camp last month.

Some difference-makers to look out for among the rookies are Sydney Langseth and Madison Mashuga, to name a few; in all, the Mavericks are bringing in a pretty sizable class of eight players this season, and they’ll need some contributions right away to shore up that depth. Minnesota State could potentially move up a spot in the standings, but they’re still several pieces away from competing for a spot in the top four.

St. Cloud State

Key Losses:

  • Hallie Theodosopoulos, F/D: Led the Huskies with 12 goals and finished second on the team with 20 points.
  • Dana Rasmussen, F: Finished with 8 points on the year in 2019-20, eighth most on St. Cloud.
  • Abby Thiessen, D: Anchored SCSU’s blue line and finished fourth on the squad with 14 points.
  • Rachel Herzog, D: Another key defender, led the team with 52 blocked shots and chipped in 7 assists.

Key Returners:

  • Klára Hymlárová, Sophomore, F: Led the team as a freshman with 18 assists and 26 points.
  • Olivia Cvar, Sophomore, F: Finished third on the squad with 15 points, including 10 goals, as a rookie.
  • Jenniina Nylund, Junior, F: Notched 13 points in 30 games last season for fifth on the team.
  • Laura Kluge, Senior, F: Played in only 23 games for the Huskies but finished with 10 points last season.
  • Emma Polusny, Senior, G: Started 32 games last season and posted a .911 save percentage and 3.38 GAA.

Season Outlook:

The Huskies finished dead last in the WCHA last season, winning just two conference games. They lack the needed depth to go up against the best teams in the league, and they struggled mightily to keep the puck out of their own net last season, even with Polusny tending goal, a player who’s in the mix for USA Hockey. The loss of Thiessen and Herzog on the back end is likely only going to compound those issues in the immediate future, but they’re picking up a notable rookie defender in Adéla Škrdlová, who has experience with the Czech Republic at senior international tournaments.

Offensively, the Huskies retain a solid core, led by Czech national team forward Hymlárová and Finnish national team forward Nylund. Kluge is also an experienced player for Team Germany and Cvar is coming off of a solid freshman year. St. Cloud brings in an interesting class up front as well, including Emma Gentry, who won gold with USA’s U18s in 2020, and Linnea Melotindos, a Team Finland U18 Team alum. Unfortunately for the Huskies, I don’t think there are enough pieces here for them to be markedly better in 2020-21.