Gophers have open competition in net this season

There are three players vying for the starting goaltender spot on the roster.

Jace Frederick

Gophers’ head coach Stefanie Golan made it clear Wednesday: The goalkeeper situation is wide open.

Minnesota is looking for its replacement for four-year starter Cat Parkhill, who finished her collegiate career as the Gophers’ all-time leader in minutes played in net last season 7,648:25.

Sophomore goalkeeper Kristen Knutson and freshmen Tarah Hobbs and Mara Dougherty are all in competition for the starting spot as the Gophers compete in nonconference play, Golan said.

“Right now, there is no No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3,” she said. “That’ll become more solidified as we hit Big Ten play.”

Knutson is the most experienced of the trio, having seen 16 minutes of action as a freshman in 2012. She has started all four games this year (4-0), allowing two goals and posting her first career shutout against Illinois State on Aug. 30.

While Knutson has seen the most action thus far, the freshmen goalies are still in contention. Hobbs saw her first time in net Sunday, playing the second half of Minnesota’s 1-0 victory over Iowa State, and made two incredible saves, Golan said.

“The other two have been fighting and pushing [Knutson] for that time,” junior midfielder Katie Thyken said. “She’s been doing a great job.”

All of the keepers are aided by an experienced backline that’s held opponents to 18 shots through four games.

Hobbs, who said her debut was fun and nerve-wracking at the same time, said the three keepers are driven by one another’s successes.

“If someone makes a great save, it makes yourself want to make that same save or do something even better,” she said. “It just brings out the competitiveness in each other.”

Golan said she’s seeing faster improvement from her keepers as they fight for playing time.

“I think now that it’s become clear that there is no number one … you are seeing that little edge to them,” she said. “So that’s good.”

While the three are competing for the same job, they manage to maintain an encouraging atmosphere. Knutson said the supportive culture is something that wasn’t as prevalent last season.

“We celebrate successes that we all accomplish, and when Mara and Tarah do something great, it’s something great for the whole unit,” she said. “That’s not the way it was when I came in.”

While the goaltenders are friends with one another off the field, each of them maintains the drive to earn their spot in net.

“Competition always brings out an extra push, an extra drive,” Knutson said, “because you want to play that much better to earn the time in the field and be able to … play in the Big Ten.”