Last dance

by Monica Wright

It’s about redemption.
Redemption is the first word that comes to junior Nadine Muzerall’s mind when she thinks of Minnesota-Duluth, the team the Gophers lost the WCHA tournament to three weeks ago.
They’re also the team to break Minnesota’s 21-game winning streak and the first team the Gophers will play today in the AWCHA National Championship in Boston, Mass.
“This is the sixth time we will face each other,” Muzerall said. “We have to forget our hostility from losing last time and play smart.”
The Gophers have had plenty of time to stew over the 2-0 WCHA championship game loss while they waited more than two weeks for a committee to dole out their at-large bids to the four-team championship.
“It was a constant debate of scenarios and chances over who would be picked,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “Until we were told for sure, I was nervous, but they did a good job; we’re in, and that’s hard to argue with.”
Duluth coach Shannon Miller was also pleased to hear the Gophers were chosen to advance and would be playing her team.
“It’s great for women’s hockey in the Midwest,” Miller said. “I’ve said all year that I think both teams are among the top four in the country, and I still believe that. We’re excited to play them again.”
Goodwill aside, Muzerall says the Gophers have learned a lot since the last matchup. The two teams squared off four times in the regular season, splitting the series.
“We don’t adjust to other teams, they adjust to us,” Muzerall said. “We’re not changing our game, because then systems break down — we trust our abilities.”
Despite the feelings of retribution, Halldorson believes the familiarity between the two teams and the fact that the pair have already played five times this season puts them on an even level of play for this weekend.
“We’ve played so many times that there’s no mystery in preparing,” Halldorson said. “We’ve also had the same amount of time off since we last played.”
Should the Gophers beat Duluth on Friday, they advance to the championship game Saturday against either Dartmouth or Brown, two teams Minnesota has beaten earlier this year.
“If you look at our schedule, we’ve beaten every team in this tournament,” Halldorson said. “It was earlier in the season, but they’re wins just the same.”

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