Tie, shutout win keep women’s hockey team on top of WCHA

Aaron Blake

Minnesota’s women’s hockey team has struggled to put the puck in the net all season. The Gophers managed only 15 goals through the first eight games of the season but still managed to maintain first place in the WCHA.

The offense broke out of its slump and helped the Gophers (6-2-2, 5-1-2 WCHA) defeat Bemidji State (5-1-3, 3-2-3) 9-0 on Sunday after a 2-2 tie on Saturday.

Five Minnesota players scored multiple points in Sunday’s game ñ a contest that was over from the start. Senior captain Tracy Engstrom led the Gophers with two goals and three assists to more than double her point total this season.

The rout began at 2:11 of the first period when La Toya Clarke found freshman Kristy Oonincx on the doorstep from behind the net. Oonincx tipped the puck past Beaver goaltender Bre Dedrickson’s right side for her first career goal.

Oonincx, playing in only her fourth game as a Gopher, missed the first six of the season due to injury. She added a second goal and an assist later.

“It’s just nice to get back on the ice and get playing the game,” Oonincx said. “I had to start finding my game because I was out for a while.”

Laura Slominski notched the first hat trick by a Gopher this year when she pushed a wrist shot past Dedrickson with just under 14 minutes remaining in the game.

“We have definitely been struggling to bury the puck this year,” Slominski said. “It felt great to finally start putting some in as a team.

“It wasn’t just one line either. It was all of our lines contributing ñ power plays and even strength.”

Coach Laura Halldorson overhauled the lines after Saturday’s disappointing tie. The changes included moving Kelly Stephens to Slominski and Engstrom’s line.

The revamped line finished the game with five goals and five assists.

“Something needed to change,” Halldorson said matter-of-factly. “We were not generating enough offense so we changed the combinations. I am pleased with the result.”

Several Minnesota goals resulted from passes across the crease, which were simply tipped in the net by the goal scorer.

“There are good times to pass and there are good times to shoot,” Halldorson said. “What I was happy to see was that we (looked for open teammates) today and we were successful doing it. Hopefully, that reinforces the idea for the future.”

Bolstering the rejuvenated offense was Minnesota freshman stopper Jody Horak, who turned away 26 shots to gain the first shutout and second win of her career. The defense allowed only 13 shots on net before the final period while the offense built a 6-0 lead.

The Gophers attitude after Sunday’s game resembled that of a 9-0 victor. But the team was dejected following Saturday’s 2-2 tie despite gaining one point in the WCHA standings.

Minnesota dominated the first period, outshooting the Beavers 14-2, yet took a scoreless tie into the second period.

“It was nice that we did control play,” Halldorson said. “But, when it’s all said and done, at intermission it’s still 0-0.”

Both teams scored twice in the second, but neither team could break the deadlock, and the game ended 2-2.

The Gophers travel east to visit Brown on Saturday and Harvard on Sunday. Both games are scheduled for 2:05 p.m.