Wendell’s return not enough to spark an NCAA victory

by Brett Angel

FDULUTH, Minn. For weeks, head coach Laura Halldorson and the rest of Minnesota’s women’s hockey team waited anxiously for the game when star forward Krissy Wendell would return to the lineup.

The Gophers lost three of the eight games they played while Wendell was out with a fractured collarbone. But after each loss, Minnesota coaches, players and fans still believed the return of the team’s second-leading scorer would be the answer to the teams’ problems.

Those hopes were never realized for the Gophers, who lost both games and looked severely overmatched at times during their two games at the 2003 NCAA Frozen Four in Duluth over the weekend.

And that was with Wendell back in action for the first time since her injury on Feb. 8.

“I was psyched,” Wendell said about her first game back. “I didn’t feel like I’d been out for any long period of time.”

But Wendell’s enthusiasm and Minnesota’s optimism were quickly tempered by a 6-1 loss to a Harvard team determined to return to its first championship game since 1999.

Wendell did get on the scoreboard with a goal and an assist late in Sunday’s consolation game against Dartmouth, but she – like the rest of her teammates – couldn’t find the net while the outcome was still in doubt.

“It’s frustrating,” Wendell said. “I was just waiting for that bounce, trying to get a spark. But we couldn’t get it going. Just one of those games.”

Two of those games, actually, for the Gophers, who watched the championship game from the stands for the second straight year.

Minnesota will now have to wait until next season to see if Wendell and the rest of the team can transform their potential into a national title.

Three in a row

Minnesota-Duluth justified its No. 1 seed in the Frozen Four by defeating Harvard 4-3 in double overtime Sunday night to claim its third consecutive national championship.

The Bulldogs looked like they would cruise to victory after grabbing a 2-0 lead on their home ice, but the Crimson responded with three straight second period goals before Minnesota-Duluth tied the game again at three.

After two scoreless periods, sophomore Nora Tallus notched the game-winner 4:19 into the second overtime.

“This was one of the greatest sporting events I’ve ever been a part of,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said afterward.

Minnesota-Duluth coach Shannon Miller said she was “astonished, amazed and thrilled to death” with the victory.

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