Women’s hockey rebounds with sweep of Mankato

by Monica Wright

After the Minnesota women’s hockey team suffered a disappointing 4-2 loss to Ohio State last Sunday, Minnesota State-Mankato became the unfortunate victim of a team out for vengeance.
The Gophers beat the Mavericks twice as they fought to avenge the painful conference loss at the hands of the Buckeyes.
“We were more hungry for shots on the net and the pucks were going in,” senior Ambria Thomas said. “Winning was a good confidence booster for us right now.”
Though Friday’s score showed a much improved Mankato team — the Mavericks were beaten 10-0 by Minnesota last year — the Gophers were no slouches.
Getting off 49 shots on goal, luck was unfortunately not with them as Maverick goalie Sheri Vogt put up an impressive wall in front of the goal and stopped all but two shots.
Despite the 2-1 score Friday, coach Laura Halldorson said she thought the team played well and put all fault on rink size.
“Our stats between Friday’s and Saturday’s games are similar but we had a scoring advantage Saturday because the rink was bigger,” Halldorson said. “On the bigger surface we can use our speed more and stay wide, while on the smaller ice everyone’s packed in to a smaller area.”
Friday’s match, played at Mankato’s All-Seasons Arena — with 200′ x 85′ dimensions — is noticeably more claustrophobic than Saturday’s venue, the Civic Center, which is a spacious and more Mariucci-like 200′ x 100′.
Minnesota used the wide ice to its advantage in Saturday’s dominating 6-1 win, a throwback to last season’s punishing Gopher style.
Sophomore Ronda Curtin was the first to put Minnesota on the board with a goal early in the first period. Curtin, who Halldorson was considering benching due to a concussion suffered last weekend, played both games.
Following Curtin’s goal was an all-out assault, as three goals were scored in the second period, two within less than a minute of each other by Thomas and senior Courtney Kennedy.
Though the Gophers had five different players score goals Saturday, freshman La Toya Clarke doubled up on both goals and assists as she continued her impressive first-year of play.
Clarke’s four points now round out a grand total of fourteen for the season, making her the nation’s leader in points.
With last weekend’s loss attributed to a disconnected young team with nine freshmen, Halldorson said the results against the Mavericks prove the team is becoming more comfortable together.
“It takes time for freshmen to become confident on the ice,” Halldorson said. “Road trips help because it’s a fun time for the team to be together without the distractions you have when you’re at home.”
Also proving to be a non-factor was the absence of senior forward and last year’s leading goal scorer Nadine Muzerall and senior left wing Betsey Kukowski. The pair were suspended for violating team rules last week.
With the team back at full strength this week, the Gophers hope to use this weekend as fuel for the fire they will need to take on East coast powerhouses Brown and Harvard next weekend.
“We’ve learned there are some really strong teams this year,” Thomas said. “And we are starting to peak at a good time to be taking on tough teams like Harvard and Brown.”