For Gophers’ Engstrom, it’s always little things

Monica Wright

As the Minnesota women’s hockey team woke up at 4 a.m. to catch a plane back to Minneapolis Monday morning, inconsistency was on their minds.
After all, it was the reason they hadn’t gotten home on Sunday, and seemed to be the theme of their trips out East.
At Harvard a double zamboni fire added extra days to a Boston trip, while mechanical problems with a plane extended last weekend’s Dartmouth journey an extra day.
It was also the reason they got walloped by the Big Green 5-1, 4-0. Senior Nadine Muzerall hadn’t gotten a hat trick, leading scorer La Toya Clarke had no assists.
“I think our biggest problem lately is consistency,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “We’ve had trouble putting together three strong periods in a game.”
But that ‘we’ doesn’t include junior Tracy Engstrom.
Recognized last week as the WCHA player of the week for her two goals and five assists against Bemidji State, the name might not seem familiar.
That’s because Engstrom is the most overlooked — and consistent — player on the team.
And she likes it that way.
“I don’t think I stand out as far as hat tricks or statistics, and not being in the spotlight is totally fine with me,” Engstrom said.
“The team and coaching staff can rely on me to be there every night, and consistent every night. That’s all that matters.”
So what’s the key to Engstrom’s even play?
“I think my strength as a player is that I’m well-rounded,” Engstrom said.
“I might not have speed like Slominski or Nadine’s sharp shooting — I’m not exceptional at one thing. I can do a little of everything. That way if I’m tired, and don’t have quickness, I can rely on other things. If one thing is going it won’t throw off my entire game.”
Engstrom’s dependability on the ice has come in handy on a team that at times struggles for a reliable anchor. She scored the game-winning goal in the AWCHA semi-final against rival Minnesota-Duluth as well as earning all-tournament honors in the WCHA championship with four goals in the tournament.
“Tracy’s very steady, not flashy like a Muzzy,” Halldorson said. “She’s underrated but that doesn’t bother her because she’s very humble and a team player.
“She’s an unsung hero.”
Though Engstrom’s reliability is often lost on the media, it is far from unnoticed among her teammates. In a move that Halldorson said “speaks volumes about her leadership abilities,” Engstrom was voted a team co-captain this fall as a junior.
The pressure of being captain to the defending national champions should be good practice for Engstrom. Next season, ten seniors graduate, leaving just Engstrom and Laura Slominski at the helm of a team where underclassmen will outnumber the veterans two-to-one.
But what if Engstrom’s leadership role next season amounts to all the attention she’s missed over the past three years?
“I’d be shocked if I was splashed all over the papers all the time — shocked,”Engstrom said. If it doesn’t happen I’m not going to be upset.”
Monica Wright covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]