Women’s hockey whallops Mankato

by Jim Schortemeyer

There’s only one thing that can be said about any 11-1 game: No matter who you’re rooting for, it isn’t pretty.
It was all out ugly on Friday, when Minnesota bulldozed Minnesota State-Mankato to give the Mavericks a loss in their first Division I game.
The 1,000-plus fans in attendance were decked out in Halloween fare and seemed ready to party, but the party didn’t last long. The Gophers’ Nadine Muzerall opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game on a shorthanded breakaway goal to give Minnesota an early lead.
Minnesota State wasn’t ready to give in that quickly. Less than a minute after the Gophers’ goal, the Mavericks’ Michelle Sikich scored their only goal on the first shot of the game.
“When we got that first goal, and it was one to one, it was pretty fun,” Sikich said.
Maverick’s coach Todd Carroll said he hoped his team could at least stay within striking distance of the fourth-ranked Gophers. It’s safe to say that things didn’t work out quite the way Carroll envisioned.
Minnesota knocked in four goals before the end of the first period to ice the Mavericks’ hopes for an upset. Sophomore captain Kris Scholz admits it took a few minutes for the Gophers to get their legs under them.
“We were just caught off guard,” Scholz said. “We needed to get our feet wet.”
The Gophers outshot the Mavericks 45-6 in the game — a rough estimate because the official scorers stopped scoring after Minnesota went up by 10 goals early in the third period.
The list of scorers reads like a roll call at a Gophers’ practice. Muzerall, Laura Slominski, Brittny Ralph and Amber Hegland all scored twice. Three other Minnesota players — Shannon Kennedy, Sarma Pone and Matty Brekken — had one goal apiece.
All those shots made life difficult for Maverick goalie Sarah Harms, who transferred from the Gophers. Harms recalled a Gophers’ club team game when she faced a similar barrage.
“We played New Hampshire and I think they came away with 88 or 90 shots. This wasn’t as bad,” she said.
The Gophers offensive prowess was especially heartening, considering Gophers coach Laura Halldorson broke up the leading scoring line in the nation, known as “The Production Line”.
“Just because it worked well for those three last year doesn’t mean it’s the best for this year,” Halldorson said. “We just started from scratch.”
Well, not exactly from scratch. Muzerall and Scholz are holdovers from that line, while left winger Ambria Thomas moved to the second line to give the Gophers a more balanced attack.
It didn’t take long to figure out that the Mavericks were a first-year team. But Carroll said the game gave players and fans a chance to see what an established NCAA team should look like.
“For a lot of our players, it’s their first loss like that. They come from successful high school programs and have never been through something like that.”
For the Gophers, the game was a nice way to start off the season before the brunt of their schedule starts with games against fifth-ranked Harvard and No. 1 New Hampshire.
There were some signs of rust on Minnesota — sloppy passing and missed opportunities dotted all the periods — but it certainly looked like a team that can improve on last year’s fourth-place finish at the American Women’s College Hockey Association Championships.
“Everybody’s starting to get comfortable with each other,” Scholz said. “The whole game wasn’t that way, but at times we had our moments.”