Women’s hockey assistant steps down to head back to school

by Monica Wright

For the second time this season the Minnesota women’s hockey goaltenders are facing a loss in goal.
Only this time there’s little hope for a replacement.
The Gopher’s goalie woes began last spring when second-team all-WCHA goalie Crystal Nicholas transferred to Providence College. This forced Minnesota to scramble for a rookie to back up veteran Erica Killewald for the 2000-2001 season.
Now with newcomer Stefanie Snow and Killewald taking turns on the ice, coach Laura Halldorson thought her worries between the pipes were over.
But last Friday, assistant coach Libby Witchger — the first assistant hired by Halldorson when the program began in 1997 — announced plans to leave the program by Nov. 27 in order to pursue a degree as a physician’s assistant.
“It’s definitely going to be a loss for us,” Halldorson said. “And I don’t think we’ll be able to find a replacement until people become available in the spring.”
Primarily responsible for coaching Minnesota’s goalies, Witchger helped develop Killewald into the national leader in goals against average and save percentage for 1999 as well as the MVP of the American Women’s College Hockey Association National Championship last season.
Witchger’s resignation, which had been planned for the end of the hockey season, became immediately effective due to her plans to return to school next semester rather than fall of 2001.
While Halldorson said the team will feel the loss in the net, she said she believed Killewald and Snow would continue to be consistent in goal despite Witchger’s unexpected absence.
“Both Stefanie and Erica have the talent and confidence to continue through the season without this being a problem.”