Title run travels through East Coast

Two more East Coast teams stand in the way of Minnesota’s third NCAA title.

by Zach Eisendrath

If Minnesota’s women’s hockey team hopes to win its third-straight NCAA Championship, it will have to pave its way through the upper echelon teams from the East.

Besides already taking care of Princeton 4-0 on Friday night to advance to the Frozen Four, the Gophers could face New Hampshire and St. Lawrence – teams they haven’t exactly seen up close.

After their Friday game with New Hampshire, the Gophers will face the winner of Wisconsin versus St. Lawrence.

Coach Laura Halldorson said she didn’t know much about Princeton prior to Friday’s game, but that the team did its best to be prepared.

“We weren’t very familiar with each other, so I’m sure both teams did what they could to gather resources from other sources,” Halldorson said. “It’s definitely a different week of preparation than when we play a league opponent who we’re very familiar with.”

Gophers assistant captain Bobbi Ross said unfamiliarity can also make things interesting.

“Right now, there’s obviously a disadvantage of not being able to prepare like we could for a team we’ve seen before,” Ross said prior to facing Princeton. “But it makes it that much more exciting coming up against a team that we’ve never seen before. It’s fresh, it’s new.”

Nothing to worry about in net

It sure has been an up and down season for both of Minnesota’s freshman goalies, Brittony Chartier and Kim Hanlon.

Chartier started the year first on the depth chart, putting Hanlon on the bench for the majority of the first half of the season.

But when Hanlon finally hit the ice, she never looked back. Hanlon’s play was so stellar in the second half of the season that she won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association goaltender award.

Halldorson planned on splitting the goalies the first week of the playoffs. But with Chartier under the weather, Hanlon solidly secured the No. 1 spot.

But when Hanlon sprained her ankle in the first period of the WCHA Championship game against Wisconsin on March 12, it was Chartier who filled in against Princeton, recording 33 saves in the first shutout ever in NCAA Tournament history.

“Kim has been playing really well lately, so those are big shoes to fill,” Chartier said. “I was looking forward to the opportunity. I just had to come back and play my game. It’s a great chance to get to play in the last game of the season at Ridder Arena and hopefully get a chance to play in the Frozen Four next week.”

Good thing Gophers win

Everything is going according to plan for Minnesota.

Things aren’t working out too bad for the NCAA either.

With the fourth-ranked Gophers playing host to the women’s Frozen Four at Mariucci Arena this weekend, all parties crossed their fingers in hopes of seeing Minnesota play on its own campus.

“It’s big, there’s no question, because the Frozen Four will be held here in Minneapolis,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “There’s a lot of incentive to try and make that to help drive attendance.”

With Minnesota and Duluth being the only two teams crowned national champions in the tournament’s five-year history, it was unlikely the tournament would draw a big crowd with only out-of-state teams performing.