Hockey team slow in wins over St. Cloud

Monica Wright

After dominating WCHA rival Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, the Gophers mistakenly took a break against St. Cloud State and were greeted with a much improved team over the weekend.
After beating the Huskies 10-1, 10-1 in October, Minnesota struggled Friday night to get the puck past goaltender Laura Gieselman, despite outshooting St. Cloud 42-10.
“It was a combination of both St. Cloud improving and us not being at the top of our game,” Gophers junior Sarma Pone said. “I think we have a tendency of coming off strong weekends thinking we don’t have to play as hard as we need to. They improved and we weren’t prepared.”
The lack of preparation was evident early in the game. Juniors Nadine Muzerall and Ambria Thomas scored goals Friday in the first and second periods, respectively.
A burst of energy came in the third when the Gophers slapped in three shots, closing the game at 5-0. But the five-goal win was a disappointment for the second-ranked Gophers.
“They came out out-hustling us at first, we didn’t come out as well, and that was a big thing,” Pone said. “They skated as hard as they could right away.”
Saturday’s matchup saw just the opposite — the Gophers came out strong in the first period, with the Kennedy sisters and Tracy Engstrom each scoring a goal in just over three minutes.
But accuracy was again a problem for Minnesota as they out-shot the Huskies 51-15 but only netted five goals.
“We weren’t connecting as a team,” freshman Ronda Curtin said. “Our passing didn’t work at all, and we weren’t finishing as well as we should have. It felt like nothing was going our way.”
Even the Gophers’ famed power-play kill — which shut down WCHA-leading Duluth last weekend — was defeated by the Huskies on Saturday. St. Cloud slipped one of its two goals past goalie Crystal Nicholas, ending the series with a 5-2 win for Minnesota.
With only one series left before the WCHA tournament, the Gophers realize games like these won’t win the title.
“I think St. Cloud is a wake-up call that if we don’t play our top game we’ll have trouble,” Pone said.
Curtin also sees the series against St. Cloud as a sign the team needs to get serious about consistently playing their best.
“We have to come ready for every game,” she said. “We can’t expect that because we are the second-ranked team that we can simply show up and win.”

Monica Wright covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]