Women’s hockey looking for much-needed win at Mankato

by Monica Wright

Watching the Minnesota women’s hockey team suffer a devastating loss at the hands of Ohio State University last weekend, it was hard to believe you were watching the defending national champions play.
And the statistics made it hard to believe they ever were.
In the two-game series Minnesota had just 35 shots on goal, the lowest series total in school history. In the 4-2 loss Sunday the Gophers got off just 16 shots the entire game.
Minnesota’s goalie stronghold, Erica Killewald, allowed three goals in two periods and was replaced by freshman Stephanie Johnson, while senior Nadine Muzerall — out with a concussion suffered two weeks ago against St. Cloud State — also saw her position commandeered by an unseasoned rookie.
But of all the things the loss taught the Gophers as they head into a weekend series against Minnesota State-Mankato, the most important was that they had some work to do off the ice.
Off the ice?
“We had a team meeting this week and the girls came back with a list of goals, one of those being to work harder at practice,” Halldorson said. “They also wanted better team chemistry. Last year they were so close as a team, but with so many new players it’s going to take effort to get back to that point.”
Halldorson said the team hoped to start the 2000-2001 season exactly where they left off at the championship: physically strong and emotionally bonded.
But with nine new players this season, junior Tracy Engstrom said the flaws in this plan became apparent.
“Right now we have a lack of team chemistry and we need to establish a team bond and get to know everybody off the ice,” Engstrom said. “With outside the rink activities we can get to know everyone on a more personal level instead of as teammates.”
So in addition to the typical practices and weightlifting, the Gophers are implementing a regiment of team bonding through pumpkin carving get-togethers, movie nights, and the upcoming weekend-long road trip. That will give the team three days of solid team time.
But something a jack-o-lantern and a couple of chick-flicks won’t fix for Minnesota is the lack of offense the team will face this weekend. Both Muzerall and sophomore Ronda Curtin are benched due to concussions.
“We have to change the whole line,” Halldorson said. “We’re definitely going to need some people to step up due to our shortened bench.”
And while the Mavericks (1-3) aren’t having a stellar season by any means, the Gophers know better than to discount any team in the WCHA at this point, especially after being upended by one less than a week ago.
“We’ve learned that we can’t take any team for granted, and that the games are going to be much closer than last year in both points and ability,” Halldorson said. “But this is a good weekend for us to get back on track.”

Monica Wright covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]