Gophers sweep Huskies in contrasting games

by Bridget Haeg

On paper, the two games looked nearly the same. On the ice, it was a different story.

Minnesota’s women’s hockey team (4-0-0, 4-0-0 WCHA) completed a two-game sweep of St. Cloud State (1-3-0, 1-3-0) on Saturday, outscoring the Huskies 14-1 this weekend at Ridder Arena.

Though Friday’s 7-0 victory and Saturday’s 7-1 win looked similar on the scoreboard, there arose a palpable change in play from night to night.

“(Saturday) was a different type of game than (Friday), but I thought we battled hard,” Gophers coach Laura Halldorson said.

“It was a tougher game. It was a physical game. I thought St. Cloud played better (Saturday), so it was close a lot later into the game. And that made us have to work hard (and) battle.”

St. Cloud State, after being shut out in the opening game of the series, took to the ice Saturday looking more in tune with No. 1 Minnesota’s style of play.

“I thought we adjusted better, played smarter Ö we competed a lot better,” Huskies coach Jason Lesteberg said.

A major difference came in the penalties, as both teams kept the penalty box bench warm Saturday night, combining for 28 minor penalties.

“I think it was just altogether a pretty sloppy game, (but) it was a hard-fought battle,” Minnesota sophomore defender Lyndsay Wall said.

With the NCAA’s decision this year to start calling more penalties by the book, the team expected more games like this.

The Gophers said they found this made the game more choppy than usual.

“There’s not a lot of flow to the game when there’s a whistle every so often,” junior forward Natalie Darwitz said.

“It’s tough to get into, it’s tough to watch and it’s tough to play in, to be honest.”

Darwitz found a way to make it work this weekend, though, tying her own team record with five assists Friday and scoring two goals Saturday.

Darwitz and her linemates starred Friday night in the 7-0 victory, with junior forward Krissy Wendell notching a hat trick and freshman forward Bobbi Ross scoring her first collegiate goal.

Wall added some offense of her own Friday with a goal off a slapshot from the blueline.

“That goal (Wall) got was unbelievable,” Halldorson said.

“She’s a huge threat.”

Despite Wall’s offensive production this series (three goals, two assists), she said after Saturday’s game that the team stills needs improvement in their defensive zone.

“I think we definitely had breakdowns in the (defensive zone) Ö We still have a lot to work on in that area,” Wall said.

But from the bench, Halldorson said her view differed slightly: “(Many of them) don’t get the same attention or notoriety that Lyndsay Wall gets, but they played very well Ö you’d notice them more if they were making mistakes.”

No disagreements came up over the offensive play as the Gophers repeated Friday night’s scoring deluge in game two.

Sophomore Becky Wacker, back with the team after a knee injury sidelined her for six months, scored the team’s first goal Saturday.

Classmate Andrea Nichols notched two goals Saturday night.

Minnesota senior goaltender Jody Horak dominated between the pipes to improve her record to 3-0-0 but allowed her first goal of the season to St. Cloud State senior defender Tina Ciraulo in the second period of game two.

Once again, Minnesota impressed with its speed, holding St. Cloud State senior forward Carrie Holldorf (31 points last year) scoreless.

“We just have to find a way to start generating a little bit more offense,” Lesteberg said.

“What happens is our transition game is pretty nonexistent because of their speed.”

When Minnesota heads up to Bemidji State this weekend on a four-game winning streak, the question of becoming too satisfied with its current play arises.

“We’re going to guard against being complacent, but I’m not really worried about it,” Halldorson said Friday.

And Saturday’s outcome, though a victory, should have helped Halldorson get rid of any existing complacency.

“(Saturday) was a little frustrating,” Darwitz said. “But we worked through it.”