Beavers up next for women’s hockey team

by Monica Wright

After Minnesota’s win over Wisconsin solidified its first place lead in the WCHA conference by three points, it would seem the Gophers could start getting comfortable in the role of league leader.
And with the chance to add four more points to their lead this weekend against Bemidji State — a team the Gophers have never lost to — it would also seem Minnesota is finally hitting its stride.
But while coach Laura Halldorson said overall last weekend was strong for Minnesota, they shouldn’t become complacent at the top.
“From a coaching standpoint I’m never satisfied,” Halldorson said. “Last weekend we weren’t at our best. We can always work on improving, and we have to stay focused on our goals and not overlook any team.”
With coaches throughout the WCHA praising the improved strength of the entire league, the Beavers have been no exception.
Two weeks after Ohio State downed a sluggish Minnesota squad 4-2, Bemidji State toppled the Buckeyes 2-1.
The Beavers are enjoying the offensive strength of sophomore Amber Fryklund, who is currently ranked fourteenth nationally in points — five places above Minnesota’s Nadine Muzerall.
Despite these improvements, the Beavers have struggled lately, falling by whopping 14-2, 8-0 score in a series against the Badgers two weeks ago.
According to junior Tracy Engstrom, the Beavers recent mistakes make no difference to Minnesota because every team is gunning for the national champions.
“We all knew coming in to the season that everyone was out to get us, it’s not something coach needs to tell us before every game,” Engstrom said.
“After playing other teams in the league we’ve realized that everyone’s gotten a lot better so we always have to be prepared.”
Last weekend’s first place battle with the Badgers only proved Engstrom’s point — it was the first time a team besides Minnesota-Duluth had challenged the top spot in the league.
One of the keys to the Gophers 5-2 win and 4-4 tie in Madison was the return of Muzerall, whose hat trick Friday and game-tying point Saturday earned her WCHA player of the week honors.
Also helping Minnesota hold on to the top spot was freshman defender Bethany Petersen, who had three assists in the third period Friday to make her the leading point-scorer on the Gopher defense.
Petersen was also honored with WCHA rookie of the week for her efforts.
While Halldorson said she was impressed with her team’s sweep of the WCHA awards, she is hoping for a better weekend against the Beavers.
“Last Friday was a big game for us, obviously,” Halldorson said. “But we have to stay focused on what’s ahead.”

Monica Wright covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]. She can also be reached by calling (612) 627-4070 x3246