Gophers head south to face Mavericks

Minnesota swept Minnesota State earlier this season, by scores of 4-1 and 5-2.

Brian Deutsch

The Minnesota women’s hockey team will hit the road this weekend in search of two key Western Collegiate Hockey Association wins against Minnesota State.

The Mavericks will play host to a Gophers team that has only lost one game in 36 meetings with Minnesota State – a 3-2 overtime loss at Ridder Arena in 2004.

Minnesota (14-3-1 overall, 11-2-1 WCHA) has never lost at All Seasons Arena – where the series will take place. Friday’s series opener starts at 7:07 p.m. while the Saturday follow-up begins at 3:07 pm.

When the two teams played each other during the second weekend of the season, the

seventh-ranked Gophers swept the Mavericks by scores of 4-1 and 5-2.

Now, as the second half of the season is under way, Minnesota State (11-11-1, 7-10-1) has found itself on a hot streak – winning five straight games including sweeps over Vermont and North Dakota.

In that same span, Minnesota saw its 10-game win streak falter while losing three of four games to Ohio State and Wisconsin.

“(Two wins) would be huge for us right now,” senior forward Andrea Nichols said. “Coming off the split with Ohio (State), it’s really important for us to play solid hockey from here on out.”

Nichols said Minnesota is working on getting back to basics and hopefully working on the little things will lead to more success.

Unfortunately for the Gophers, they will have to get back on track without two key players.

Senior forward Becky Wacker will miss the series for academic reasons, and sophomore goaltender Brittony Chartier has taken some time off for unspecified reasons.

Wacker is one of only three seniors on the team, while Chartier was the team’s regular goalie for the majority of the first half of the season while 2005-06 WCHA Goaltending Champion Kim Hanlon was injured.

With Hanlon, Minnesota will have a talented goalie that will be put to the test by a Minnesota State offense that features one of the most productive players in the conference.

Mavericks junior forward Lindsay Macy has 27 points in 23 games, while sophomore forward Maggie Fisher is only four points behind with 23.

“Minnesota State has always been a dangerous team to play,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “You have to go into their rink ready to play your best if you want to be successful.”

Although the Mavericks are averaging 3.35 goals per game, the Minnesota defense is more concerned with its own play instead of its opponents.

“We’re just trying to focus on us and getting back to the type of hockey we had been playing before the break,” senior defenseman Anya Miller said. “Two wins this weekend would really boost our confidence and it would be good for team morale.”

Halldorson said that the team has been working on raising its intensity this week in practice.

“We want to get on a roll again,” Halldorson said. “Having a good weekend at Mankato would keep us moving in the right direction at a critical time of the year.”