Gophers women’s hockey team finally gets a test in Brown

by Mark Heller

The Minnesota women’s hockey team has waited all season for a series like this.
Finally, the No. 2 Gophers (15-2-2) will play host to another college hockey powerhouse at Mariucci Arena this weekend when No. 4 Brown (17-4-3) comes to town to close out Minnesota’s regular season.
The Gophers will take part in the Midwest Showdown in early March, and then the American Women’s College Hockey Alliance championships March 26 and 27.
But first things first.
“The two games this weekend for us are huge for a variety of reasons,” said Gophers coach Laura Halldorson, whose team lost twice to Brown last year at Providence, R.I. “They also have the top goalie in the ECAC conference in Ali Brewer, so we’re going to have to find ways to beat her.”
That is not to say the Gophers are weak between the pipes. Sophomore Erica Killewald, who is expected to start both games, is nicknamed “Killer” for a reason.
Killewald was named Minnesota Women’s Athletics Athlete of the Month for January. She is 10-1-1 on the season, with six shutouts and a 1.05 goals-against average.
Last weekend’s series against Providence was one of the closer played series of the year for Minnesota, and this weekend’s series should be quite an encore.
Brown dropped two places in the polls two weeks ago after losing two consecutive games against Harvard and Northeastern, but it swept Maine last weekend. Brewer posted her 10th and 11th shutouts of the season against Maine, tops in the nation.
Combating a dominating goalie with the Gophers’ high octane offense makes for a good old fashioned hockey game.
But for Minnesota, who has played a relatively easy schedule for most of the season, it’s another chance to show what they’re really made of.
“They don’t necessarily score a lot of goals, but they don’t give up goals because of their goaltending and defense,” Halldorson said. “So we need to take advantage of the opportunities we get.”
Minnesota doesn’t have a lot of games against the best, but so far they’ve made them count. The Gophers are 4-1-2 against currently ranked opponents this year. Brown is 4-4-3 against ranked opponents, but it is the only team to beat No. 1 Harvard this season.
This series will go a long way in determining rankings, seatings for the national tournament at the end of March, and further proof of just how good this team is.
“We don’t have a lot of games against the best teams like they do in their league,” Halldorson said. “So every time we play one of the top teams, it’s crucial for us to make a statement. That’s why this is a huge weekend, because we have that opportunity.”