From Minot Daily News
By Ryan Ladika
While the team is nationally ranked a bit lower than it would prefer, the Minot State women’s hockey squad authored enough memorable moments throughout the first half of its 2021-22 season to force the ACHA’s hand in taking a good, hard look at its No. 6 spot in the country.
Not unlike their male counterparts, the lady Beavers were carried by strong defensive play and near-impenetrable goaltending en route to an impressive 14-3-0-0 record through their first 17 games of the season.
“I’m happy with how I think we started the season,” Minot State head coach Ryan Miner said. “If we could have capitalized on one or two of those (losses), it would have probably put us in a better spot going into the spring. Overall, you got to be happy with the success that we had.”
The Beavers’ first half was highlighted by an 8-0 victory over the Colorado State Rams Oct. 10 that featured 100 shots on goal and a Story Navrot hat trick.
Minot State also gave its head coach the 100th victory of his career with its 3-2 victory over Concordia College Oct. 30, a win that wrapped up a series sweep as well as the first two victories over an NCAA opponent in the history of the program.
“We got some big wins on the road in Adrian, in Colorado,” Miner continued. “Overall, we’re starting to find our ground but there’s still a lot of work to put in. We haven’t hit our peak yet, so the goal is that we hit our peak come then end of February and into March.”
At the center of the Beavers’ first-half success sat goaltenders Haylie Biever and Jordan Ivanco. Miner pointed to his coaching staff’s goal to get both netminders regular playing time regardless of the team’s opponent, and the results have followed.
Entering the conference’s Jan. 7 three-game slate, the duo’s respective 1.24 and 1.45 goals-against averages marked the third- and fourth-best in the ACHA among goalies with at least six games played.
The pair has worked seamlessly with their skaters’ strong defensive play in front of them, holding their opposition to two or fewer goals in 14 of the team’s 17 games accompanied by six shutout wins.
“In my opinion, we have two of the top goaltenders in the league,” Miner stated. “That’s what we’re looking for is them to push each other. At the end of the day, if we can continue to roll like this and have both of them get a start every weekend, it’s going to make us that much better.”
While not yet a consistent appearance, Minot State’s offensive production has also taken a notable step forward thus far.
Miner made known before the season’s first game his desire for the team to improve in that area, and the Beavers responded with 63 first-half goals, good for sixth-most in the conference and a +43 goal differential that again illustrates the team’s defensive dominance.
Five Minot State skaters finished the first half with double-digit points, led by Megan Norris’ 12 in her 15 games. The junior forward caught fire toward the end of the first semester, notching a point in each of her last five games.
“When she’s on the ice, we always have an opportunity to produce,” Miner said of Norris. “I know going into this second half here, everything that she’s accomplished so far is going to continue to build and progress, and she’s going to be an important player for us come spring semester and the national tournament.”
The team faces a challenge to begin the second half of the season in a six-game road trip featuring three top-10 teams: No. 4 Lindenwood Jan. 15-16, No. 5 McKendree Jan. 18-19, and No. 9 Maryville Jan. 21-22.
Paired with the team’s obvious goal to earn as many wins as it can in that span, Miner added, is the need to continue to build and improve every day. The Beavers fell two wins shy of a national championship a year ago, and a stretch like this can go a long way in preparing Minot State for the competition it will face as it tries to clear that hurdle in the spring.
(Originally published at https://www.minotdailynews.com/sports/local-sports/2022/01/beavers-womens-hockey-to-build-on-strong-defense-in-second-half/)