Women’s hockey to rely on new talent

Having lost three of their most prominent players of last year, the Gophers will look for returners to step up their scoring.

Brittany Storoz

Minnesota will be battling with some offensive losses and tough defensive decisions as it heads into the 2009 hockey season looking to match last yearâÄôs success. In 2008, head coach Brad Frost led the Gophers to a WCHA title with a 23-2-3 conference record. Minnesota went 32-5-3 and earned an appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four, but plans to reach the championship game were cut short by a 5-4 loss to Mercyhurst College. The Gophers will head into the 2009 season lacking three offensive stars from last year that led the team in goals: Monique Lamoureux, Jocelyne Lamoureux and Gigi Marvin. Combined, the triad accounted for 97 of the teamâÄôs 198 goals . As freshmen, the Lamoureux twins played every game last season but have since transferred to North Dakota. Marvin, a former team captain, exhausted her eligibility. One final blow to the Gophers 2009 offense is the loss of junior forward Jen Schoullis , who is taking a medical redshirt. Regardless of the teamâÄôs losses, Frost said Minnesota should expect this season to be as competitive as any its ever had. âÄúThere were plenty of times last year where we played a bad two periods but we played a really good third, and we were just good enough to win,âÄù Frost said. âÄúIf we do that this year, chances of us being victorious are slim.âÄù The Gophers will be leaning heavily on seniors Brittany Francis and Kelli Blankenship , and junior Emily West to serve as the new trio of goal scorers. Though this group may not have the talent of last yearâÄôs scorers, West said the offense will be doing whatever it can to keep up the scoring. âÄúThey might not be pretty goals âĦ just grindy goals, dirty goals, and we have to take what we can get,âÄù West said. âÄúWeâÄôve got all of our forwards willing to do that, knowing that itâÄôs not going to be an easy task this year.âÄù What the Gophers may lack offensively in 2009, they will try to make up for on defense. Three talented goalies will be fighting for a starting spot this year as the squad looks to improve on the 69 goals the team gave up last year. Junior goalkeeper Jenny Lura was fourth in the nation with a 1.62 goals against average last season, and sophomore goalkeeper Alyssa Grogan was named the 2008-2009 WCHA goaltending champion . Freshman Noora Räty of Finland, the Olympic goalie for Team Finland at the age of 15, also joins the Gophers this year. Frost said the team will take a wait-and-see approach to decide who to start in net, but he expects the competition between the three goalkeepers will only make them better. âÄúOur goals havenâÄôt changed,âÄù Frost said. âÄúWe want to repeat as WCHA champions. We want to âĦ win the WCHA tournament championship, and be there in the Frozen Four and give ourselves the best opportunity to win.âÄù The Gophers open the season against Syracuse, a second-year team, at home on Oct. 2.