Streaking Muzerall leads the women

by Monica Wright

For a two-time All-American who has scored 25 goals in the past 12 games and leads the nation in scoring, a slump in play should be easy to notice.
Easy to notice, but hard to face.
Junior Nadine Muzerall, a center on the Minnesota women’s hockey team, was deep in a point recession before Christmas.
“When you’re a forward you are supposed to get points, and I wasn’t getting as many as I should have,” Muzerall said.
A reporter noticed Muzerall’s low numbers and asked her in early January what was hindering her performance.
“My mom and dad were asking me about my play, saying I wasn’t fulfilling my role and I thought they were just harping on me to do better like parents do, but when someone on the outside asks me what’s up then I know I must not be doing my job.”
Muzerall realized that to step up her performance in games she had to work harder in practice.
“In the past I wasn’t pushing myself in practice, but I’ve been working hard and my teammates and coaches say it has been reflected in my game,” Muzerall said.
The lull was broken soon thereafter — Muzerall scored a school record-setting five goals in a game against Bemidji State, and followed with three more the next day.
The very next weekend the Gophers beat third-ranked New Hampshire, something they had never done in the three-year history of women’s hockey.
Muzerall did her part by scoring five of the Gophers’ 11 goals that weekend.
“Minnesota provides so much for me to play here and so do my parents, so when it was said I needed to pick it up, I realized I had to get back,” Muzerall said. “I’m starting to now, but I should have been doing it all year.”
If anyone doubted that Muzzy was back, she let them know for sure when she scored her 35th goal on Saturday against Ohio State, setting a new school record for goals in a season and earning the honor of leading scorer in the nation.
But such titles mean nothing to Muzerall if she can’t share them with her teammates, whom she considers her family.
“It’s good to have the honor of being leading scorer, but at any moment it could be taken away,” Muzerall said. “I would much rather win the national championship than be the leading scorer. Who remembers the leading scorer of 2000? No one. Who remembers that Minnesota won the first championship of the millennium? Everyone.”
The national championship no longer seems an unrealistic goal for a team that has won its last 10 games and beaten top-ranked East Coast teams.
Should Minnesota win the title, it would seem Muzerall would have every honor a hockey player could want.
But with only one more year left playing for the Gophers, Muzerall already has her sights set on a new goal: the Olympics.
“The Olympics are on my mind right now, and it will take a lot of work to reach that goal,” Muzerall said. “But I am in no rush to grow up and get a job by any means. My passion is playing hockey.”
Muzerall and her teammates will need to channel most of that passion into this weekend’s crucial series against WCHA front-runner Minnesota-Duluth.
The Gophers, who lost twice at the hands of the Bulldogs in early December, take comfort in the fact that Duluth received its first losses of the season at the hands of New Hampshire last weekend.
Especially sweet about Duluth’s losses is that the Gophers trounced New Hampshire two weeks ago.
“Duluth’s games against New Hampshire shows they’re beatable,” Muzerall said. “Winning would be a good chance to prove ourselves and a sweep would put us into first place in the WCHA.”
Coming off a seven-game homestand, Muzerall is unfazed about the rivalry that traditionally draws larger crowds than the team is used to.
“People on the glass during games doesn’t bother me — it pumps me up to win.”

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