Gophers look to tighten up defense against North Dakota

Chris Lempesis

For Minnesota’s women’s hockey team, last weekend’s series with St. Cloud State was that rare case in which the numbers did, in fact, lie.

Despite allowing just one goal in each game of their sweep of the Huskies, the Gophers were not at all pleased with their defensive performance.

Top-ranked Minnesota (25-1-2, 20-0-2) will look to correct that this weekend as North Dakota (7-18-3, 4-17-1) comes to town for a two-game WCHA set at Ridder Arena. Game times are set for 2:05 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The Gophers said they suffered too many mental lapses in their own end of the Olympic-sized rink at St. Cloud State.

Senior forward Kelly Stephens said this is the only explanation for the weak showing.

“The biggest thing is really, I think, a mental thing for us, because we do know our (defensive) zone,” she said. “It’s not like we’ve never played it before. We’ve worked on it extensively.”

Assistant coach Brad Frost, whose duties include analyzing video tape and figuring out the team’s game plan, said the team has a tendency to focus too much of its efforts on the offensive end – which could pose a problem this weekend.

Though North Dakota has lost six in a row and is currently in seventh place in the conference, both pointed to the Sioux as a hard-working team that will take advantage of mental lapses.

“They’re the type of team that will cause us a lot of trouble if we don’t match their intensity and their work ethic,” coach Laura Halldorson said.

This should not be a problem for Minnesota. The Gophers said they played down to the Huskies’ sixth-place level last weekend and know they cannot have a repeat performance this weekend.

And a more-honest defensive performance should help them accomplish this.

Four on national team

Four current and one former Gophers players were named to the U.S. Women’s National Team for the 2005 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship on Wednesday.

Stephens, juniors Krissy Wendell and Natalie Darwitz, sophomore Lyndsay Wall and alum Courtney Kennedy will represent the United States in the eight-nation tournament.

The tournament will be held in Linkoping and Norrkoping, Sweden. It begins April 2, and the medal games are set for April 9.