Women’s hockey opens with two wins against improved St. Cloud

Monica Wright

The Gophers women’s hockey team both began their WCHA season and ended their dominating WCHA legacy in the same weekend.
Though the Gophers swept St. Cloud State 4-1, 5-4 the series proved a stark contrast to Minnesota’s opener against the Huskies last year when they trounced the fledgling team 10-1, twice.
Coach Laura Halldorson said the games signaled the end of an era in the WCHA — and she couldn’t be happier.
“We can’t view St. Cloud the same as we have in the past, and I think that is great for the league and for women’s hockey,” Halldorson said. “All the programs in the WCHA have improved — those days of big wins are gone, and that’s very good.”
The Huskies showed their improvement by holding the Gophers to only two goals by the third period on Friday and taking a quick lead on Sunday.
Though Minnesota outshot St. Cloud almost 2-1 in both games, they gave up three power play goals — something Halldorson can’t recall happening in recent years.
“I’ve come to the realization that I was expecting us to start where we left off last season,” Halldorson said. “It’s unreal to think we can do that with so many new players; we’re rusty, and the new players are just learning our system.”
Huskie coach Kerry Brodt-Wethington — sister of former Gopher and WCHA defensive player of the year Winny Brodt — said she believed the other teams in the conference were finally catching up to Minnesota’s caliber of play.
“We have a good recruiting class this season; they’re strong, confident, and older players,” Brodt-Wethington said. “We’ll come back and get them again later in the season.”
With nine freshmen joining the Gophers this season — the biggest class since the team’s inception — Halldorson is still toying with combinations on the ice.
Freshman La Toya Clarke found her spot this weekend, serving up five assists to give herself an early season lead in points.
The defenders will see a lot of new faces as Halldorson prepares them to take over when her entire defense graduates this spring.
But regardless of the team’s new roster, Slominski and company learned a tough lesson from the Huskies this weekend: the WCHA is not the same conference they dominated last season.
“All Minnesota teams are always gunning for the U,” junior Laura Slominski said. “But now that we’re the defending National Champions it would be huge to beat us, especially to be the first team to do it. That’s the extra incentive.”

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