With three years of 11-0 wins, easy domination of almost all in-state teams and two month-long winning streaks, it would be easy to blow off Minnesota’s 4-2 loss to a second-year program like Ohio State.
Afterall, the Buckeyes don’t even have a full 24 player roster.
But coach Laura Halldorson said there was no luck involved in Ohio State’s win.
“I think we needed to lose to wake up and realize that the league is different this year,” Halldorson said. “I was hoping we would learn that from Duluth’s loss on Friday, but I guess we didn’t.”
The Gophers also failed to learn that sub-standard play won’t allow them to glide to a win like they did last year.
Minnesota wasn’t at its best, and it was obvious early as senior goalie Erica Killewald — last year’s AWCHA tournament MVP — allowed three goals in the first two periods.
Halldorson sent in rookie Stephanie Johnson to finish the game. The freshman stopped seven of eight shots on goal in the third period.
Halldorson’s only explanation for the rare goalie switch was “I didn’t think Killewald was playing well.”
The rest of the freshman class also struggled to get control of Sunday’s game after strong performances the previous day by La Toya Clarke and Jerilyn Glenn.
Only Clarke contributed an assist while the others joined their upperclassmen counterparts in watching the Buckeyes dominate the ice.
“The freshmen have big shoes to fill,” senior Ambria Thomas said. “It’s up to the coaches to decide whether they’re there yet, but they have been trying.”
The strain of the game became apparent as the Gophers racked up roughing and tripping penalties in the third period, offering the Buckeyes even more chances to dominate Minnesota.
As the Gophers finished the game having been outshot 23-16, the team was left to speculate as to whether senior leader Nadine Muzerall would have been able to save them.
Muzerall, the nation’s leading goal-scorer last year, was out with a concussion she received last Sunday against St. Cloud State.
Said Halldorson:”We could have used Muzzy out there today.”
Monica Wright covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]