Gophers, Northeastern fit to be tied

by Tim Nichols

Over the weekend, the Gophers had the perfect opportunity to establish themselves as a powerful force in the women’s hockey world with a series against No. 2 Northeastern. Although Minnesota didn’t win either game, it did prove it can skate with anyone in the nation by playing to a pair of ties.
In a hard-hitting and physically draining Saturday contest, the Gophers tied Northeastern 2-2. The game featured the nation’s leading scorer, the Gophers’ Nadine Muzerall, stoned on three penalty shot-type breakaways by Huskies goaltender Shannon Meyers.
Brittny Ralph and Kris Scholz each scored for the Gophers on rebound attempts in the midst of heavy traffic in front of the net. The scrums in front of the net were also present on the other end of the ice as Northeastern’s leading scorer, Hilary Witt, put the puck in twice.
The chippy play was epitomized by coincidental roughing calls against Minnesota’s Ambria Thomas and Northeastern’s Emily Pemrick. They exchanged little shots at each other inside the Huskies’ goal.
Both teams were content with the Saturday tie, as evidenced by the very conservative play in overtime. Gophers coach Laura Halldorson said for Sunday’s game she wanted to “work on shortening our shifts because that will help our legs later on in the game. We got caught out there on some long shifts and that hurt us in the later periods.”
They did shorten their shifts and use more players in the second game. The little tune-ups in the machine did not, however, change the overall performance as the Gophers tied the Huskies again, 1-1.
The second game was nowhere near as physical as the first one, but it did not lack in intensity. Whereas in Saturday’s game Northeastern established its physical presence, wearing down the Gophers, Sunday’s game had a much more up-and-down and free flowing style that favored Minnesota and its Olympic-sized Mariucci Arena ice surface.
Seven and a half minutes into the second frame, Muzerall finally broke through by assisting on a two-on-one with Kris Scholz. Muzerall created the entire play by stealing the puck in the neutral zone, streaking along the left side and then placing a pass right on the tape of the streaking Scholz’s stick. Scholz then tapped it over the right shoulder of Meyers for the first goal.
Three minutes later, the Huskies’ Lisa Giovanelli capitalized on the Gophers’ sloppy puck-handling behind their own net by taking a pass from Pemrick and slamming it past Killewald to tie up the score.
The game’s intensity peaked at the 3:54 mark of the overtime when Northeastern’s Jaime Totten was called for hooking. The Gophers could not take advantage of the power play, though.
With an invite to the National Invitational Tournament at the Fleetcenter in Boston looming larger — a tournament which, if the Gophers make it, will be against all East Coast teams — this pair of ties is a benchmark for the Gophers.
“We hung right with them,” Gophers goalie Erica Killewald said.
“If you told me two days ago that we were going to get two points out of this series,” Halldorson said, “I’d be very happy with that.”