Muzerall ignites for Minnesota

Monica Wright

The absences of injured defenders Winny Brodt and Megan Milbert didn’t stop Nadine Muzerall. The junior performed as if possessed by both players, scoring a school-record five goals and seven points in Saturday night’s 10-0 beating of Bemidji State.
Muzerall scored the game’s first three goals with sophomore Laura Slominski scoring a pair before Muzerall slapped in her final two. The goal-scoring outburst boosted her season total to 26.
Modest Muzzy takes none of the credit for Saturday night’s record-setting play.
“I was at the right spot at the right time,” Muzerall said. “From defense to offense, they all helped generate those goals. They put it right on my stick, in college-level hockey it’s about every player on the team.”
Slominski’s two goals– one away from a career-first hat trick– came less than three minutes apart in the second period, earning her a spot along with Muzerall and goalie Erica Killewald as “stars of the game.”
While the offense was on a torrid pace Saturday, its output Friday was less than stellar.
Though Friday night’s matchup produced a 6-1 win for Minnesota, Slominski and the Gophers felt they had to make some passing and speed improvements to generate Saturday’s caliber of play.
“We just stepped it up all-around tonight and played more intensely,” said Slominski of the difference between Friday and Saturday.
Improved team efforts have helped Minnesota hold teams scoreless on power plays for six consecutive games. The Gophers have gone 3-for-4 on the power play themselves during that same period.
Sophomore goalie Crystal Nicholas made 17 saves Friday while junior goalie Killewald stopped 24 shots Saturday, keeping Bemidji scoreless for the night.
With key defenders Megan Milbert and Winny Brodt — the nation’s leading scorer on defense — out with injuries, Minnesota played with only four defenders instead of the usual five.
Despite the handicap, the Gophers kept their composure.
“Megan has been out for a while so we’re used to five on defense, but it’s different with Winny gone because then we’re down to four,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “Ambria Thomas was ready to fill in on defense if needed, but they did a good job,” coach Laura Halldorson said.
Despite the Gophers’ wins this weekend against Bemidji, the focus is already on next weekend when sixth-ranked Minnesota takes on second-ranked New Hampshire.
“We did well, better than last week, but the test is next week,” Muzerall said. “We have to be quicker and have better passing because bad habits get picked up by better teams. We have to take more pride in our positions because we’re missing players.”
Halldorson shares Muzerall’s concern for the shape of the team and the tougher competition to come.
“The real test is going to be next week when Winny will be more obviously missed.”

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