Women’s hockey returns Muzerall to starting lineup

Monica Wright

After missing two weeks of hockey action, senior forward and last year’s national point-scoring leader Nadine Muzerall is ready to return to the ice.
Muzerall was first sidelined with a concussion sustained during a game against St. Cloud State on October 15, the first series of the season.
The concussion left the Gophers noticeably handicapped on offense in their 4-2 loss to Ohio State University two weeks ago, after which coach Laura Halldorson said “we could have used Muzzy out there today.”
But Muzzy would not be back to avenge the loss. Both Muzerall and fellow senior Betsey Kukowski were suspended for last weekend’s series against Minnesota State-Mankato due to an unspecified violation of team rules.
Despite the losses Minnesota went on to sweep the Mavericks 2-1, 6-1 on the road.
Muzzy will be back in the lineup this weekend to take on Brown and Harvard in the first of three East coast road trips this season.
Help Me Ronda
With left wing mainstays Muzerall and Kukowski benched for last weekend’s series, Halldorson turned to centers Tracy Engstrom and Ronda Curtin to maintain the offense.
Curtin, a sophomore, set freshman records last season for games played (39) and power play goals (11). So taking over for her missing teammates wouldn’t seem like much of a stretch.
Yet as of last Thursday, the chance of Curtin taking the ice was looking slim.
“Ronda got a concussion against Ohio State, so at this point I doubt she will be playing this weekend,” Halldorson said a day before the matchup.
Curtin participated in just one day of practice last week, then only in non-contact drills.
But to everyone’s surprise Curtin sailed onto the ice Friday night and scored the first goal of the game. Saturday was more of the same as Curtin again slapped in the first goal of the game.
Curtin’s two goals give her seven points this season.
Poll Population
The Gophers, who maintained their second-place ranking in the polls this week after defeating Minnesota State-Mankato, aren’t the only team in the WCHA to be nationally recognized.
Wisconsin — who two weeks ago won a stunning 4-2 victory over third-ranked Minnesota-Duluth at the Bulldog’s home rink — are steadily climbing in the polls, showing the WCHA isn’t a two-team league anymore.
Coming in at seventh in the polls, the Badgers also garnered WCHA player of the week honor in freshman Meghan Hunter.
Hunter had a part in ten of the Badgers’ twelve goals against St. Cloud State last weekend as well as the team’s first hat trick this year.
But the increased skill and power among teams the Gophers formerly dominated doesn’t come as a surprise to the national champions.
“The WCHA isn’t the same league it was last year, the teams have a lot more skill,” freshman Kelsey Bills said two weeks ago. “Recruiting among the teams in the WCHA has gotten a lot better, and teams are getting really good players with a lot of experience on the ice.”

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