Women’s hockey leaves impression on east teams

Aaron Blake

Halfway through the second period at Mariucci Arena on Sunday, Minnesota women’s hockey freshman Kelly Stephens got a loose stick lodged in her skate.

Stephens took several seconds to shake the stick off, and her team accordingly shook off some shoddy play, scoring three goals in the next 12:03 to take a 3-2 lead on third-ranked New Hampshire (9-1-1).

The Wildcats scored late in the third period to gain a tie, and the sixth-ranked Gophers (9-2-3, 5-1-2 WCHA) skated away with three points over the weekend after a 3-2 overtime victory over second-ranked Dartmouth (6-1-0) on Saturday.

“I thought the first period was a little sluggish,” coach Laura Halldorson said Sunday. “About halfway through the second, we picked it up and after getting in a hole, we got some momentum and put ourselves in a good position for the third period.”

Noelle Sutton scored the apparent game-winning goal on a wrap-around after two near misses in front of the net.

“We set up low,” Sutton said. “I broke to the net twice, and the first time it bounced off my stick. I just had to have patience and bring it around her and put it in the net.”

Wildcat Carolyn Gordon tipped in Kristen Thomas’s slap shot to tie the game 3-3 with 36 seconds remaining. New Hampshire had pulled goaltender Jen Huggon in the final minute and capitalized on the offensive advantage.

“I didn’t even see it, but I know somebody tipped it,” Gophers stopper Jody Horak said. “I heard it hit a stick and it went high somewhere.”

Horak started both games over the weekend for the first time this season. Halldorson avoided splitting the series’ between Horak and fellow freshman Brenda Reinen as she had done for the past three weeks.

“(Horak) had a great game (on Saturday) so we thought we’d stick with a hot goalie,” Halldorson said.

Happy to step in and play both games for her team, Horak stands undefeated at 4-0-1 after a win and tie over the weekend.

“It definitely feels a lot better to play both games,” Horak said. “You can get more into it and get a sense of confidence knowing coach has the confidence to play you in both games of a series.”

In Horak’s first game of the weekend, she turned away 43 Dartmouth shots en route to her fourth consecutive victory. The Big Green outshot Minnesota 45-21 in its only loss of the season.

Stephens and Jerilyn Glenn gave the Gophers a 2-0 lead early in the second period. Dartmouth’s Cehryl Muranko brought her team a goal closer at 10:59 of the second period.

As in Sunday’s game, the Gophers’ opposition was forced to pull its goalie and tied the game late. Dartmouth’s Carly Haggard sent the game into an extra session with 1:01 remaining in the third period.

Unlike Sunday’s game however, Minnesota answered in overtime. Senior captain Tracy Engstrom netted the back-breaker only 18 seconds into the extra period.

The tie with New Hampshire and the win against Dartmouth extended the Gopher’s unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2). Minnesota has played the second-, third- and fourth-ranked teams in the nation the past two weekends, also defeating unranked Harvard.

“Three wins and a tie is great for us against those tough eastern teams,” Halldorson said.

Renee Curtin redshirted

Halldorson announced Renee Curtin will redshirt her rookie season for the Gophers on Wednesday. Nagging injuries have kept Curtin off the ice.

“In talking to our medical staff, we felt that was what would be best for her,” Halldorson said. “I agree with their decision.”

Gophers sign Albrecht

Minnesota signed South St. Paul High School’s Ashley Albrecht to a national letter of intent. Albrecht is a three-time all-state and two-time all- tournament award winner.