Oonincx leaving women’s hockey for St. Cloud State

Brett Angel

The clouded future of Minnesota women’s hockey forward Kristy Oonincx became a whole lot clearer Tuesday afternoon when the sophomore revealed her plans to leave the team and transfer to St. Cloud State at the end of the spring semester.

Oonincx, suspended since Feb. 6 for what head coach Laura Halldorson called conduct detrimental to the team, made her decision official by signing release papers effectively ending her status as a member of Minnesota’s women’s hockey team.

Oonincx said she would complete her academic responsibilities at the University before taking her hockey skills to St. Cloud.

“I’m sticking it out for the rest of the semester and then I’m not going to come back next year,” Oonincx said. “I have plans to attend St. Cloud State on a hockey scholarship.”

The Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, native did not disclose the reason for her suspension, but said she made up her mind to transfer within a week of Halldorson’s decision to suspend her indefinitely.

“There was absolutely no contact through coach Halldorson that I was withdrawing,” Oonincx said. “She just had to sign the sheet.”

Oonincx scored 25 points in 24 games for the Gophers this season, notching 14 goals and 11 assists. She ranked fourth on the team with 38 points as a freshman.

Ironically, her two best games in the maroon and gold were played at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud where she twice scored five points.

“I really like their coaches,” Oonincx said. “I dealt with them a lot when I was a senior in high school. Especially (assistant coach) David Prokop.”

Oonincx also said a close group of friends in Minnesota contributed to her decision to attend St. Cloud.

Transferring within the conference requires players to sit out a year, meaning Oonincx will resume her collegiate career in the fall of 2004 with two years of eligibility remaining.

“At this point I’m just distancing myself from the program,” Oonincx said. “I respect (Minnesota) a lot and wish them the best of luck, but I need to move on and do my thing.

“I’m just excited to get on with my future as a hockey player.”

Wendell back on the ice

An hour before Tuesday’s practice, Minnesota forward Krissy Wendell skated alone on the Ridder Arena ice surface.

Wendell began skating last week to get back to playing shape as she continues to rehabilitate her fractured right collarbone.

“That’s the only thing I can control right now,” Wendell said. “I can drink all the milk I want, but that’s going to have its own time schedule for when it heals.”

Wendell is hopeful that she will be able to play in the NCAA Frozen Four, held in Duluth beginning March 21.

“I’m nowhere near ready to be back right now,” Wendell said. “I can be optimistic and say I want to play in the Final Five (March 6-8), but ultimately a lot depends on how the team does.

“I want to be as close to 100 percent as I can by the Frozen Four,” Wendell said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Six-shooter

For the sixth time this season, Minnesota freshman forward Natalie Darwitz earned WCHA rookie of the week honors, this time for her performance in the Gophers’ sweep of Minnesota State-Mankato last weekend.

She recorded her fourth hat trick of the season in Friday’s 5-1 victory over the Mavericks and added two assists in Saturday’s 4-0 shutout.

Darwitz leads the team in scoring and is third overall in the conference with 62 points.

Darwitz was also named offensive player of the week once.

Recruit named Ms. Hockey

Hibbing/Chisholm’s Andrea Nichols was named the 2003 Minnesota Ms. Hockey winner Sunday.

Nichols, who has committed to play hockey at Minnesota next season, led her high school team to its second consecutive Class A state championship game before losing 3-2 in the final.

Nichols racked up 71 goals and 56 assists in her senior season with the Bluejackets. She is the first non-metro player to win the award and the seventh of eight Ms. Hockey recipients to commit to Minnesota.

Brett Angel covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]