Women’s hockey on a roll

Jim Schortemeyer

On Nov. 5, the Minnesota women’s hockey team tied 1-1 with New Hampshire. The Gophers (16-0-1) have won 16 straight games since that early-season matchup with the third-ranked Wildcats, and plowed through an easy home weekend of hockey against a school from Canada.
Minnesota plowed through Wilfrid Laurier (12-10-0) 10-0 Friday night, and 7-1 Saturday night.
The two wins were just a continuation of a 16-game streak in which the Gophers have outscored opponents 117-17.
The Minnesota hot streak has vaulted several players into national prominence. The Gophers have at least two players in the top 10 of total points, points per game, total goals, goals per game, total assists, assists per game, power-play goals and short-handed goals.
Sophomore forward Kris Scholz has been on a 17-game streak of her own, in which she’s scored at least one point in every game.
The Hawks didn’t stand much of a chance in this weekend’s series, and they knew it.
“It’s no secret that (Minnesota is) absolutely impressive,” Hawks coach Josh Batley said. “We came because it looks good for our recruiting. Recruits see that we go to the states and play the best.
“They’re fast, they can play finesse, they can play physical. What don’t they have?”
What they don’t yet have is a national championship, although they’re definitely on the hunt. Minnesota is ranked second in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll, and fourth in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
The latter poll decides which four teams make the playoffs, but Gophers coach Laura Halldorson disavows any interest in the polls.
“We know what we’re getting ourselves into,” she said. “Our actions can speak for themselves.”
Last year, Minnesota’s actions earned them the fourth spot in the tournament, but the team quickly bowed out in losses to New Hampshire and Northeastern.
This year’s team will get to gauge its improvement next weekend, when streaking Minnesota travels to New Hampshire for a tournament.
The Gophers will open against Concordia — which they beat 6-4 Jan. 16 — on Friday. On Saturday Minnesota will face off with New Hampshire and try to accomplish something they never have before — a win over the Wildcats.
A good weekend would keep the Gophers rolling into the toughest part of their season. Minnesota has home matches with sixth-ranked Providence, second-ranked Brown and Cornell remaining on its schedule.
So the Gophers used their last home series against Laurier to work on the “little things” that will be important against the better teams Minnesota will be facing in the weeks to come.
“We concentrated on forechecking and breakouts,” freshman Jenny Schmidgall said. “We can’t just sit back next weekend. We need to be aggressive.”