Women’s hockey still in good shape after weekend sweep of Mankato Mavericks

Monica Wright

Ending the first half of the season with a set of 5-1, 4-0 losses to top-ranked Dartmouth is not the way coach Laura Halldorson wants the year 2000 remembered.
Especially when she says her team is in a better position now than they were a year ago.
What?
Last year at this time the Gophers were two months away from winning the national title, senior Nadine Muzerall was leading the nation in scoring, and they could boast a solid 12-5-1 record.
This year Muzerall is in a slump, the Gophers have been beaten by a WCHA opponent other than Minnesota-Duluth, and they’ve lost their leading defensive scorer in Bethany Petersen.
But Halldorson is right. They’re first in the WCHA with a strong 12-1-1 record (15-4-1 overall) and their New Year’s resolution of maintaining a strong unbeaten streak shows they have no plans to change that.
Minnesota opened the second half of the season with the beginnings of that streak over non-conference foes: a 3-0 shutout over Mercyhurst and a 4-2 win over Niagara.
And with the U.S. National team series this weekend, Halldorson hopes she’ll be able to say the same thing about the second half of the season.
“Being first in the WCHA is a big positive for us,” Halldorson said. “We just need to work on being consistent for the rest of our games and hopefully everything will come together.”
Staff Switch
After assistant goalie coach Libby Witchger’s surprise resignation in late November, Halldorson was forced into a mid-season staff search, one that took her no further than fellow assistant coach Joel Johnson.
After looking over more than 50 applicants, Halldorson settled on Brad Frost, a former college hockey teammate of Johnson’s at Bethel.
Frost’s interim position will be to work with the offense, something center Tracy Engstrom said is a welcome addition to the staff.
“Brad’s great because he offers us a new perspective on our offensive plays,” Engstrom said. “He’s a very positive person who cares a lot about us and our program.”
Petersen Still Out
Freshman Bethany Petersen, who suffered a concussion early in the third period of the Gopher’s 5-1 loss to Dartmouth on Dec. 9 that left her unconscious for twenty minutes, is still being evaluated by doctors and undergoing tests to assess the possibility of her return to the ice.
Petersen — the leading scorer on defense for the Gophers — will remain out indefinitely, something Halldorson said leaves the team without a strong offensive defender.
“It affects us because she’s not on the ice, but it’s not a big distraction because we’re used to having people injured,” Halldorson said. “I’m not going to let it become an excuse for us.”

Monica Wright covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]