BEMIDJI, MINN. — From an early age, Clair DeGeorge wanted to skate. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, a place where winter sports are the norm.

Problem was, her parents, John and Lynn, weren't thinking hockey skates.

"My parents put me and my sisters into figure skating when we were really young," Clair DeGeorge said. "From 3 to 5, my parents always said I begged to play hockey. Finally, by 5, they gave in and let me go and skate. Ever since then, I've loved it."

Figure skating's loss is Bemidji State's gain, as DeGeorge, a junior center, has forged a nice career with the Beavers. She led the team in scoring last season with 22 points and picked up where she left off by setting up teammate Lydia Passolt for the winning goal in Saturday's 1-0 triumph over Lindenwood that salvaged a season-opening series split.

"I'm very excited to have my line fully back together," said DeGeorge, who missed having Passolt and Haley Mack on her wings at times last season because of injuries. "The three of us work so well together."

The Beavers, who play host to Providence on Friday and Saturday, are aiming to break into the top four of the WCHA after finishing a close fifth to Minnesota Duluth last season. Coach Jim Scanlan returns 16 upperclassmen and 12 of his top 13 scorers, and the Beavers get their first shot at the rival Bulldogs in the conference-opening series on Oct. 18-19 in Bemidji.

"We're excited about the year," Scanlan said. "… It's a matter of coming together and playing to our ability. It's an extremely challenging league every night, but I like our chances and like our group."

DeGeorge is a big part of that optimism. She helped Shattuck-St. Mary's win three championships in USA Hockey's national tournament and has extensive national team experience, including this summer with the Under-22 squad in a series against Canada.

"It was fun — a huge learning experience," she said. "Playing with the national team members is a good way to learn more self-confidence. [U.S. Olympic gold medalists] Kendall Coyne, Hilary Knight and all those players have taught me a lot about being a leader."

Scanlan sees a player driven to succeed and willing to work to do so.

"She recognizes areas she wants to improve on; she's a 200-foot player, which we need; and she's an unbelievably hard worker," he said. "When your best player is your hardest worker, it makes our job as coaches that much easier. She comes to the rink every day focused and attacks every drill. She has high aspirations and high goals."

DeGeorge credits the influence of her mother for that work ethic. Lynn DeGeorge was an All-America swimmer at Indiana. "My mom is one of the hardest-working and toughest people that I know," she said. "She was a distance swimmer and has that mental toughness to keep going and not stop."

DeGeorge came to Minnesota as a freshman, enrolling at Shattuck, the boarding school in Faribault. The move was an adjustment at first, but she's found a home away from Anchorage.

"The only major difference that really bothers me is there's no mountains here," DeGeorge said. "I'm definitely a mountains person."

And, of course, a hockey person.