Offense sparse in winless weekend

Minnesota failed to score in both a loss and a tie at Harvard.

by John Hageman

The No. 2 Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey teamâÄôs high-powered offense found itself in an unfamiliar position when it looked at the scoreboard at the end of its two games this weekend in Cambridge, Mass.: shutout, twice. The Gophers struggled offensively this weekend at No. 9 Harvard, losing the first game Friday, 1-0, and salvaging a tie Saturday, 0-0. With the tough weekend, Minnesota falls to 13-3-2 while the Crimson improve to 7-3-2. The trip to Harvard marked the final two games of nonconference play for the Gophers in the regular season. There was strong play between two of the best goalies in the nation in Minnesota freshman Noora Räty and Harvard senior Christina Kessler . The Crimson broke up the 0-0 tie Friday 33 seconds into the final period as Liza Ryabkina scored the only goal of the weekend after killing a Harvard power play. âÄúThey got a good shot off,âÄù Minnesota defender Michelle Maunu s aid. âÄúItâÄôs kind of hard in those situations when youâÄôre just getting done with a penalty.âÄù Usually a team with a high shot total, Minnesota was held to just 24 shots on goal âÄî the lowest of the season. Harvard had 21 shots on goal in FridayâÄôs contest. âÄúWe got shots on net, but they werenâÄôt quality,âÄù junior captain Emily West said. âÄúWe were just throwing stuff on net and we didnâÄôt really test the goalie all weekend.âÄù It was the first time since Nov. 17, 2007 that the Gophers had been shutout in a loss . SaturdayâÄôs game saw both goalies at their best, with neither allowing a goal. Räty saved her best game of the year when the Gophers needed it most, tying a career-best 39 saves in the shutout. âÄúShe played tremendous. ItâÄôs not too often that you get a shutout and donâÄôt win a hockey game,âÄù Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said. Kessler did not give up a goal on the weekend, totaling 53 saves. Coming into the series, she was fourth in the country in save percentage at .940. It was the first time since a Jan. 30, 1999 tie with New Hampshire that the Gophers ended a game tied at zeros. West, who led the Gophers in shots over the weekend , said the team needed to focus on playing to its level over the weekend. âÄúItâÄôs almost like we kind of underestimated ourselves against them,âÄù West said. âÄúWe pulled through [Saturday] with a tie, but we know what we have to do to be a better team.âÄù The Gophers found themselves in the penalty box often this weekend, spending 28 minutes in the box over the two games. Playing in an Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference game, Maunu said the team knew the referees were going to be calling a tighter game, so extra penalties were to be expected. âÄúWe just need to get away from that a bit and keep our sticks down a bit more,âÄù Maunu said. âÄúThe different reffing style was a little hard on us.âÄù While the Gophers may have tallied too many penalties, the penalty kill was effective enough not to allow a goal in 14 power-play opportunities. Although the Gophers failed to score a goal this weekend, Frost said there was some good to come from the series. âÄúI think we did a lot of really good things, in particular, defensively and on our kill,âÄù Frost said. âÄúI told the team, âÄòI think weâÄôll probably end up playing Harvard again sometime down the road,âÄô and weâÄôll be a little more prepared for them.âÄù Minnesota will resume conference play next weekend with North Dakota.