WCHA title in tow, U’s sights are higher

Noah Seligman

With a 3-1 victory Friday, Minnesota’s women’s hockey team (26-4-2, 19-3-2 WCHA) locked up the WCHA regular-season title.

But some sloppy play Friday tempered the Gophers’ enthusiasm about the championship. Minnesota said it is far from satisfied with a conference crown.

“It’s the first rung on the ladder that we’re looking to accomplish this year,” senior co-captain Kelsey Bills said. “We’re looking to use this as a stepping-stone. It puts us in good position for the Final Five Tournament, getting that first game bye.”

Bills injured again

In Friday’s game, Bills was helped off the ice after injuring her ankle at the 12:18 mark of the first period.

After the game, Bills said she got her skate caught in the ice, and is listed as day-to-day with a right-ankle sprain.

Bills missed 10 games earlier this season after fracturing both bones in her lower left leg Oct. 26 against Wisconsin.

Her status is unknown for the Final Five Tournament this weekend.

The thin blue line

Minnesota freshman defender Danielle Ashley did not play in either game over the weekend and did not make the trip with the team. Her absence left Minnesota with five active defenders.

Head coach Laura Halldorson declined to comment on the specifics of Ashley’s absence, but a University official said Halldorson will determine how long Ashley is sidelined.

“We have our reasons and I’m not going to say more than that at this point,” Halldorson said after Friday’s win. “I’ll know more later.”

Ashley was not available for comment. Her status for the Final Five has not been determined.

Quick strike

In Saturday’s 7-5 win, sophomore forwards Krissy Wendell and Natalie Darwitz combined for two goals in a span of seven seconds.

Wendell scored her third of four goals at the 7:28 mark of the second period. Wendell won the ensuing faceoff and sent the puck to Darwitz, who went near-post with a wrist shot to give the Gophers a 4-2 advantage.

The two goals were one second from tying the school record for the two fastest goals in school history. Ambria Thomas and Tracy Engstrom scored two goals in six seconds against Wisconsin on Nov. 19, 1999.