Women’s hockey continues WCHA domination in wins, awards

by Monica Wright

In an awards sweep comparable to that of the “Titanic” Oscar domination, the Minnesota women’s hockey team stole the show for the second week in a row as the WCHA honored two more Gophers for outstanding league play.
But with the self-deprecating Laura Halldorson at the helm rather than James Cameron, it’s clear the Gophers won’t be letting the honors go to their heads.
“It’s nice for the players to get things like that,” Halldorson said. “But it isn’t a big thing that we focus on.”
After the Gophers (11-2-1, 10-1-1 WCHA) toppled Bemidji State last weekend 9-1, 8-4 senior Tracy Engstrom was honored as player of the week after she wracked up a short-handed goal, a power-play goal and five assists on the weekend.
Accompanying Engstrom in the accolades for the second time this season was freshman La Toya Clarke. On Friday, Clarke had her first collegiate hat trick. She added a goal and an assist in Saturday’s win.
Clarke’s first rookie of the week honor came after the Gophers season opener against St. Cloud State. Clarke had a school record-setting five assists in Minnesota’s 4-1 and 5-4 beatings of the Huskies.
One week earlier, the league honored senior Nadine Muzerall as player of the week for her hat trick Friday and game-tying — and 200th collegiate — goal Saturday against Wisconsin.
Freshman Bethany Petersen took home the rookie of the week honors alongside Muzerall after she tallied three assists in one period against the Badgers.
Final Four
At the beginning of the season Halldorson said mixing and matching players among her lines was going to be something she played with all season.
But it appears that after weeks of shifting players she may have hit upon the perfect offensive combination.
Since their first pairing in the 4-0 blanking of Minnesota-Duluth three weeks ago, senior left wing Muzerall, junior right wing Engstrom and freshman center Clarke have combined for eighteen goals and 32 points in six games.
In those six games the Gophers have gone 5-0-1, with the Fab Four — were named such because of their jersey numbers of 4, 14, and 24. True to their name, they have scored four game-winning goals.
A dent in Dartmouth
Unanimously voted number one in both national polls all year, Dartmouth — Minnesota’s opponent this weekend — received the first blemish in its record two weeks ago.
After whipping Cornell 9-3 on Nov. 25, the Big Green (8-0-1) could only muster a 2-2 tie against St. Lawrence the next day, ending Dartmouth’s eight-game winning streak. St. Lawrence moved up two places to fourth in the national polls.
While the Big Green still hold the top spot nationally, Minnesota moved into second after successfully routing Wisconsin two weeks ago.
With the series against Dartmouth the biggest the Gophers have faced this season, Halldorson said the team thrives at road games and she expects no less this weekend.
“I’m glad we’re going to be on the road for this one because it takes us away from all the distractions we have here, like finals,” Halldorson said. “On the road we get to spend time together as a team and that’s good for us.”

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