Clarke’s goal keeps women’s hockey unbeaten

Brett Angel

For the first time in 10 games this season, Minnesota’s women’s hockey team skated off the ice without a ‘W’ to show for its effort.

The Gophers (9-0-1, 7-0-1 WCHA) did, however, keep their unbeaten streak intact with a 2-2 tie against conference opponent Bemidji State on Saturday afternoon at Ridder Arena.

“I wish we could’ve won today,” Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson said. “But it could have been worse.”

Three-and-a-half minutes into the second period, Bemidji State players piled up on each other in celebration after senior captain Lisa Peters beat Minnesota goalie Brenda Reinen, giving the Beavers a 2-0 advantage.

To that point, the second-ranked Gophers had been out-hustled and out-played, and for the first time this season looked like the underdog.

Minnesota needed a spark, and it got one from senior captain – Ronda Curtin.

Curtin answered Peters’ score with a goal of her own just 2:03 later, bringing the crowd of 1,037 to their feet with a remarkable individual effort.

After corralling the puck in front of her own net, Curtin skated the length of the ice, weaving in and out of Bemidji defenders en route to an unassisted goal that got her team back in contention.

“At that point in the game, we needed to start something soon, and someone had to do it,” Curtin said. “I saw the opening and just went.”

The play induced memories of Curtin’s junior season when she led the WCHA in points (48) and was a Patty Kazmaier Award finalist.

Curtin and junior La Toya Clarke were forced to carry the offensive load against the Beavers with Gophers Krissy Wendell, Natalie Darwitz, Kelly Stephens and Winny Brodt missing the series to play in the Four Nations Cup in Ontario.

Minnesota still trailed 2-1 in the third period and faced a Bemidji State power-play when Clarke stole the puck and scored the first short-handed goal of her career to notch the game at two.

“We had control of the puck, and we also had the back-checker on her,” Bemidji State head coach Bruce Olson said. “She managed to beat those two people, and then she beat our goaltender. That was a great individual effort on her part.”

The game ended in a tie after an uneventful five-minute overtime period.

Minnesota defeated the Beavers 4-1 Friday night, getting seven points from their first line of Kristy Oonincx, Allie Sanchez and Clarke. The Gophers have never lost to Bemidji State and lead the all-time series 12-0-3.

Despite earning just one point with a tie and a loss over the weekend, Peters was emphatic when asked if this was her team’s best performance of the season.

“Most definitely,” Peters said. “I think both games we came together and really played well.”

The Gophers will continue their home-stand this weekend when nationally ranked Brown and Harvard come to Ridder Arena.

Clarke injured in overtime

no goals were scored in the extra session Saturday, but play was stopped for several minutes after Minnesota junior forward La Toya Clarke was knocked to the ice. Clarke lay on her back while trainers examined her left leg.

“She took a stick to the ankle,” Gophers coach Laura Halldorson said. “We don’t know how bad it is.”

Halldorson said it’s too early to determine whether Clarke will be able to play this weekend.

Brett Angel covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]