Women’s hockey rolls to easy win

by Jim Schortemeyer

The Minnesota women’s hockey team shook off nearly three weeks of rust in a routine 10-0 win over St. Cloud State Saturday night.
The Gophers (12-1-1) played just three games during the winter break — and all three came in consecutive games before Christmas. But no amount of rust would keep the Huskies (3-7-0) in the game.
“We haven’t played in a while, so I told them `Let’s brush off the dust,'” Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said.
There were some struggles with passing and timing early, but once Minnesota hit its stride, the game was all but over.
Sophomore Nadine Muzerall — who finished with a hat trick — made an individual effort to get things started for Minnesota at the 4:05 mark of the first period. That goal opened the floodgates for six more Minnesota goals.
When freshman Jenny Schmidgall closed the first-period scoring at the 11:05 mark, Minnesota was up 7-0.
And then the game got considerably less exciting. Minnesota never beats teams by more than 10 goals, although nobody will say exactly why. The punishment probably involves the benching of the line who scores the 11th goal and possibly some pain in practice.
“You’ll notice we don’t often win by more than ten goals,” Halldorson said. “That’s all I have to say about that.”
So being up 7-0 in the first period wasn’t necessarily a good thing, right?
“It was hard because we had seven and there’s three left,” Muzerall said. “We had to figure out how we were going to do this.”
The Gophers changed strategies for most of the second period. They worked on passing, penalty-killing and keeping the clock running. Aside from a three-goal outburst at the end of the second period, the game was effectively over.
The Gophers managed only two shots in the third period, both out of respect for St. Cloud and fear of the consequences of scoring. A graphic example occurred when freshman Laura Slominski was on a clean breakaway and flipped a wrist shot at least five feet over the goalie’s head.
On the defensive side, freshman goalie Crystal Nicholas was doing all she could to stay focused on the game.
“I sing to myself, I talk to myself, and I sing to the posts,” Nicholas said.
It’s hard to blame Nicholas for singing the “Brady Bunch” theme (which she says she actually sings). It wasn’t an exciting game. Minnesota took just 27 shots and was clearly a more talented team.
St. Cloud coach Kerry Brodt knew exactly what to expect from Minnesota — her sophomore sister Winny plays center for the Gophers.
“I just wanted them to get a feel for the speed and the quickness of Division I hockey,” Brodt said. “It was fun and a reality check for us.”
Saturday’s game was typical of the type Minnesota has had so far this season. The Gophers either pound on teams from the Midwest and Canada or battle ranked teams. There isn’t much in between.
Minnesota went all the way to Manitoba to get a few games in over the Christmas break. The Gophers beat Manitoba once and Alberta twice en route to winning the Manitoba tournament.
Halldorson and the Gophers hope to form a conference with teams from the Midwest, a move which would likely improve the level of competition for Minnesota.
“I know programs like Duluth, Minnesota State, and Wisconsin — all the teams we hope to form a league with soon — will have good programs,” Halldorson said.
But the easy part of the Minnesota schedule is (finally) over. The Gophers will be in Lake Placid next weekend for games against Canada’s top two teams from last season, as well as a bevy of other squads.
They’ll wrap up the season with games against fourth-ranked Brown and fifth-ranked Providence in late February. With New Hampshire cemented at first in the polls, Minnesota will have to fare well to make the championship tournament, which only takes the top four ranked teams.