Wendell’s status iffy as Gophers ready selves for Harvard

Northeastern and the Crimson await the Gophers this weekend in Cambridge, Mass.

Bridget Haeg

Minnesota women’s hockey junior Krista Johnson summed up what Krissy Wendell’s possible absence this weekend could mean for the Minnesota’s women’s hockey team in four words: “Obviously, she’s Krissy Wendell.”

And when talking about the Gophers’ injured Olympic veteran, second-leading point scorer (16 goals, 21 assists), team captain and power-play mainstay, that says it all.

After a collision with a goal in Saturday’s game versus Minnesota-Duluth sent Wendell to the locker room with an abdominal wall contusion, she is listed as day-to-day, leaving top-ranked Minnesota (11-0-1, 11-0-1 WCHA), for now, without one of its most valuable players.

Coach Laura Halldorson said she is unsure as to whether Wendell will take the ice this weekend at the Harvard Shootout in Cambridge, Mass.

Minnesota faces Northeastern (2-7-1, 1-2-0 Hockey East) on Friday before taking on fourth-ranked Harvard (6-1-1, 6-1-0 ECAC) Saturday in a rematch of last season’s national championship, which the Gophers won 6-2.

“We’ll hold a plan for if she’s in the lineup,” Halldorson said. “And a plan for if she’s not.”

Minnesota had to adjust to playing without Wendell for the final 2 1/2 periods of Saturday’s game, as Wendell’s injury came early in the first.

“I almost feel like if she hadn’t even dressed, it would have been easier for us to respond,” Halldorson said. “I think it was tough from a physical and an emotional standpoint that she got hurt during the game early on.”

But the Gophers said they feel confident they can caulk the possible void with some help from the other lines.

Johnson said the Gophers have the depth to fill the void Wendell’s absence would leave.

This was evident last weekend, as junior defender Chelsey Brodt and freshman forward Liz Palkie scored after Wendell’s injury, providing much-needed offense from some different outlets.

“We are not a one-line team,” assistant coach Brad Frost said. “If we simply rely on our top line through the rest of this semester, we’re going to be in trouble.”

If Wendell does not play this weekend, Minnesota will also lose a key member of its forceful power play, which ranks first in the nation with a 37.2 percent conversion percentage.

But against the Bulldogs, the Gophers mustered only one power-play goal in 13 chances.

Halldorson partially attributes this to late-game fatigue and an effective Minnesota-Duluth penalty kill, but she said Wendell’s absence also contributed.

“It would have helped to have her in there,” Halldorson said. “It would have been nice to have had her on the ice during the power play.”

Minnesota will need that sturdy power play this weekend when it faces Harvard, which boasts a .906 penalty kill.

If Wendell can play, the task of defeating the Crimson again might be a little easier.

More info on Gagnon

Minnesota’s traditionally homegrown team got a little more internationally diverse Monday when Canadian defender Melanie Gagnon signed a national letter of intent to join the Gophers next season.

“We start in Minnesota with our recruiting, but we also recruit the cream of the crop from other places,” Halldorson said. “And Gagnon is definitely the cream of the crop when it comes to (defenders) available this year.”

The St. Adolphe, Manitoba, native, one year removed from high school, is embarking on her second season playing in Canada with the Oval X-Treme in Calgary, Alberta, in hopes of making the Canadian national team.

Two games into the season, she already has five assists.

But Halldorson said Gagnon is getting information that she’s somewhat of a long shot to make the team, so Gagnon started looking at colleges.

Minnesota recruited Gagnon last year as well, but the defender opted to stay in Canada in attempts to make the national team.

“We had been in touch with her last year, and we continued communication,” Halldorson said. “I’m really excited that it worked out.”