U women split series with Providence

by Paul Markgraff

Defense was the key to the series for the Gophers women’s hockey team this weekend at Providence.
The Gophers split the series 3-1 and 0-1 in a pair of games that proved to be much more difficult than the season openers last week at St. Cloud State.
On Sunday, the Gophers could not manage to put the puck past Providence junior goaltender Sara DeCosta. DeCosta saved 22 shots in what turned out to be the first shutout against the Gophers in 18 games.
“We did have a couple of great scoring chances where DeCosta came up big,” Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said.
Providence senior defender Katherine Cahill made the difference for the Friars, scoring on a shot that glanced off a skate and past Gophers junior goalie Erica Killewald in the second period.
Cahill’s goal turned out to be all the Friars would need. Their defense held strong, allowing the Gophers to only two shots in the second period.
“Providence did a great job shutting us down and bottling us up,” Halldorson said.
The game revealed the level of competition the Gophers will be up against when they play traditionally stronger East Coast teams. But Saturday’s game revealed a Gophers squad that could compete against more experienced teams.
After employing a high-powered offense last week against St. Cloud, the Gophers found they could not dominate the Friars defense Saturday, and instead concentrated on finishing scoring opportunities whenever possible.
The Friars went ahead halfway through the first period, and Minnesota managed only 14 shots through the second period.
But early in the third period, Gophers freshman winger Ronda Curtin — who had a hat trick against St. Cloud and won last week’s WCHA Rookie of the Week award — evened the score with a power play goal.
“We did one of our plays on the face-off, and Courtney Kennedy slid a pass across the ice to me,” said Curtin. “I one-timed it in the net.”
Her poise spread to junior Nadine Muzerall, who scored next on a bank shot off of DeCosta at the 9:23 mark, a goal that turned out to be the game-winner. With that goal, Muzerall set a new school record for scoring at least once in nine straight games.
Muzerall left the game with an injury, but junior defender Winny Brodt skated into the center position and scored an unassisted goal with 7:42 left to play.
Coach Laura Halldorson had said the only way the Gophers could score on Providence is if they managed to get a lot of lateral puck movement and catch her off guard. During game one of the series, the Gophers did score on some quick plays, but during game two they had no such luck.
The Gophers finished the weekend series with a record of 3-1-0 (2-0-0 in the WCHA). Minnesota plays at Northeastern next weekend.

Paul Markgraff covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]