Sweep puts unbeaten streak at 20 games for women’s hockey

by Aaron Blake

Just moments before Minnesota’s women’s hockey team took the ice with Findlay (Ohio) on Saturday, the visiting Oilers could be heard yelling and chanting from the locker room.

But Findlay (7-17-2) would have little else to make any noise about, being swept by the No. 1 Gophers (19-2-5, 12-1-3 WCHA) 4-0 on Sunday and 7-1 on Saturday.

Playing on the strength of two solid offensive lines and excellent defense, Minnesota beat the Oilers handily in both affairs.

“I actually thought we played better today than we did yesterday,” Gophers coach Laura Halldorson said after Sunday’s game. “Findlay played better today and their goalie had better game.

“So even though we put more (goals) in yesterday, I don’t think that means we played better.”

Freshman goaltender Jody Horak stopped all 18 shots she faced Sunday for her second career shutout.

Minnesota’s defenders greatly helped Horak, winning nearly all loose-puck battles and allowing no breakaways.

“I didn’t face a lot of good shots on net,” Horak said. “(The defense) gets better each game, and they’ve stepped it up a lot in the past couple weeks.”

Fellow freshman Kelly Stephens scored what ended up being the game-winner at 9:55 of the first period. Coming away from a flurry on the boards, Stephens buried a power-play tally from approximately 20 feet out.

Minnesota was 2-for-4 on the power play – an encouraging statistic for its coach.

“I was glad we didn’t allow a power-play goal and we got two of our own,” Halldorson said. “Yesterday, neither was true.”

Despite seven goals, Minnesota went 0-for-3 on the power play Saturday while allowing Findlay to score with the advantage.

“We definitely need our special teams to be playing well heading into the late part of the season,” Halldorson said.

With the score 2-0 in the third period, sophomore Jerilyn Glenn added a pair of insurance goals.

While Glenn’s goals put Sunday’s contest out of reach, linemate La Toya Clarke’s hat trick in Saturday’s game provided the necessary offense for the 7-1 victory.

The Gophers’ second line accounted for five of the 11 Minnesota goals and 11 total points on the weekend.

“That’s really great,” Glenn said. “Every team strives to achieve a lot of depth. Having three solid lines allows each line a break.”

Clarke’s first goal at 12:53 of the first period fired up the slow-starting Minnesota offense en route to tying its second highest single-game goal output of the season.

“La Toya had a lot of patience with the puck around the net,” Halldorson said. “On a couple of her goals, she waited a little longer than most players would. I think that paid off for us.”

Aaron Blake covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]