Women’s hockey wins 20th straight against Mavs

by Brett Angel

MANKATO, Minn. – While Minnesota’s women’s hockey team lamented over two narrow defeats at the hands of Minnesota-Duluth a week ago, it could at least take comfort knowing that Minnesota State-Mankato was up next on the schedule.

The Gophers have dominated the Mavericks for the past four years, winning all 18 previous meetings between the two teams and outscoring Minnesota State-Mankato by a lopsided 117-13 count over that span.

The trend continued Saturday and Sunday as Minnesota (15-2-1, 9-2-1 WCHA) got back to its winning ways by defeating last-place Minnesota State 5-2 and 3-1 at All Seasons Arena in Mankato.

But despite being in the WCHA cellar, the Mavericks (3-12-1, 2-9-1) didn’t go down without a fight.

“They worked their butts off,” Minnesota State-Mankato head coach Jeff Vizenor said of his players. “For us to skate with the No. 3 team in the country for 60 minutes is a great effort by us.”

Minnesota earned four conference points despite playing Saturday’s game without its two leading scorers.

Freshmen Krissy Wendell and Natalie Darwitz did not dress because of what Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson called “disciplinary reasons related to academic responsibilities.”

Sophomore Kelly Stephens picked up the slack for the Gophers on Saturday, scoring two power-play goals, including one with 5:47 left in the game to seal the outcome.

Ashley Albrecht and Noelle Sutton added a goal apiece for Minnesota. Junior Kelsey Bills added an empty-netter for the final tally.

Minnesota State-Mankato forward Amanda Osborn got the Mavericks on the board first just 3:05 into Sunday’s contest, but the Gophers responded with three straight goals to ensure a weekend sweep.

Kristy Oonincx deflected a La Toya Clarke shot past Minnesota State-Mankato goalie Shari Vogt to notch the game 1-1 late in the first period.

Allie Sanchez put the Gophers ahead to stay 7:03 into the second period with a slap shot from just inside the blue line. Wendell added a short-handed score midway through the final period.

The Gophers came away with two victories but still feel there’s room for improvement.

“We weren’t playing very organized,” senior captain Ronda Curtin said afterward. “It was really just slap the puck around. There was no flow and so many penalties.”

Sunday’s game was the final contest for Minnesota before its holiday break. The Gophers’ next game will be against St. Cloud State on Jan. 10.

“Our wear and tear showed a little bit this weekend,” Halldorson said. “With finals coming up and the schedule we’ve had, it will be good for us to get a break.”

As for Minnesota State-Mankato, the Mavericks must wait until Feb. 22 for their next opportunity to end their 20-game losing streak to the Gophers.

“We’re going to get our chance,” Vizenor said. “It’s going to happen at some point, and when it does, it’s going to be very sweet.”

Brett Angel covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]