Minnesota’s women’s hockey team begins its defense of the WCHA regular season title on Friday against Minnesota State, Mankato at Mariucci Arena.
The Gophers hope to continue their mastery of the Mavericks, a team paced by goaltender Shari Vogt.
Minnesota State amassed a 2-31-2 record a season ago despite the efforts of 2001 WCHA All-Star Vogt.
Vogt was the 2000 Let’s Play Hockey Senior Goalie of the Year and St. Cloud Times Player of the Year while at Rocori High School.
In her rookie season with the Mavericks, Vogt went 1-19-2 with a 4.33 goals against average. She was named team most valuable player at season’s end.
She lost both contests on Jan. 13 and 14 against the Gophers 4-0 and 3-0, respectively. Despite the losses, she was named WCHA rookie of the week, saving 59 shots in the second loss.
Coach Jeff Vizenor says Vogt will start on Friday but will go with whoever will help the team win on Saturday.
The Gophers also beat the Mavericks in Mankato on Oct. 27 and 28 by counts of 2-1 and 6-1.
Minnesota State’s primary offensive threat is sophomore Sheri Maisonneuve who scored five goals and nine assists in 32 games. She began the 2001-02 season scoring her team’s only two goals in two losses to Mercyhurst.
The Mavericks have tried to put the failures of last season behind them, hiring former Wisconsin assistant Vizenor on May 10.
Vizenor hopes to bring the success he experienced at Wisconsin to the Mavericks this season. The Badgers finished third in the WCHA a season ago.
While reconstructing the program, Vizenor has little time to specialize his preparations for a reconstructed Minnesota team – though it might not matter.
“They have 11 new players there,” he said. “(Graduated defender) Courtney Kennedy isn’t going to be leading fastbreaks on power plays anymore.”
The Mavericks have seen plenty of sophomore goalie Stephanie Johnson, though. She started two of the games against Minnesota State last year, allowing one goal and getting her first career shutout on Jan. 14.
Minnesota’s La Toya Clarke and Laura Engstrom look to continue their offensive dominance of the Mavericks. Clarke scored seven points in the four games last year while Engstrom has 10 goals and 14 assists in 13 career games versus Minnesota State.
This weekend’s series begins the team’s final year in Mariucci Arena. The $13.9 million Ridder Arena, which will be home to women’s hockey as well as men’s and women’s tennis, is nearly six months into construction and will be set to open in 2002.
The Gophers begin the series on Friday at 7:05 p.m.
Aaron Blake covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]