Women’s hockey runs undefeated mark to 22

Aaron Blake

MANKATO, Minn. – With 13:34 remaining in the third period on Saturday night at All Seasons Arena, Mavericks forward Erin Hafermann punched Minnesota defender Stacy Troumbly in the back of the head after Gophers goalie Brenda Reinen covered the puck.

Referee Brad Shepard, no more than 15 feet away, missed the call despite Troumbly’s pleadings. Hafermann just smiled haughtily.

It was a small victory for Hafermann and the Mavericks who had little else to smile about, being swept by No. 1 Minnesota (21-2-3, 14-1-3 WCHA) 6-1 on Saturday and 3-0 on Friday.

With the pair of wins, the Gophers set a new team unbeaten streak record of 22 games (18-0-4 since Nov. 2). The previous record was 21 games in 1999-2000 – the year Minnesota won the national championship.

“I’ve said before the game I’m not big on stats, and I’m not big on polls, and I’m not big on streaks,” Gophers coach Laura Halldorson said. “But today was important and by winning we could break that record. That was a way this team could leave its mark on this program.

“It’s a great accomplishment for a very young team. Probably nobody expected us to be able to do it.”

Even her?

“Yeah,” Halldorson said with an honest nod.

Despite the decisive final scores, both games were in doubt for the Gophers at certain points throughout.

In Saturday’s contest, Minnesota State, Mankato (4-21-1, 1-17-0), began the scoring at 1:10 of the first period when Kearstin Solberg tapped in a Jody Rankin slap shot to make it 1-0.

“I was playing the shot more and wasn’t really paying attention to the person in front who wound up tipping it in,” Reinen said. “I was moving to my right and she beat me to the left.”

But the Gophers would answer back at 4:35, when senior captain Laura Slominski received a pass across the crease from freshman Kelly Stephens and put the puck under Mavericks goalie Shari Vogt.

From that point on, it was all Minnesota.

“Goals right after the opponent scores are huge because it shows we’re still in it and we’re not going to hang our heads,” said Slominski, who went on to score her sixth hat trick as a Gopher. “The first couple shifts after they score a goal are key.”

Ronda Curtin and Kristy Oonincx each tallied three points and defender Melissa Coulombe scored her first goal of the season in the 6-1 blowout.

Oonincx scored the game-winning goal on the power play at 17:28 of the first
period.

The freshman inched in on the shorthanded Mavericks while Minnesota controlled the offensive zone. Left unguarded, Oonincx placed the puck perfectly in the upper left corner of the net past Vogt.

Oonincx also scored the game-winning goal on Friday, receiving a pass from La Toya Clarke after a face off to make it 1-0.

The one-goal advantage endured for most of the game, as neither team could find the net.

But Oonincx scored again late in the third period to increase the lead to 2-0 and force Minnesota State, Mankato to pull Vogt. Jerilyn Glenn’s empty-net goal iced the contest.

Minnesota’s second line accounted for all three goals and all three assists in the victory, with Oonincx, Clarke and Glenn getting two points each.

“One of our goals for this game was to keep them from scoring and we accomplished that,” Halldorson said after Friday’s game. “One of our goals was to play our best, and we were inconsistent with that.”

The Gophers hold a five-point cushion over second-place UMD in the WCHA standings with six games left to be played for both teams.

 

Aaron Blake welcomes comments at [email protected]