No suspension for Buckeye who broke Wendell’s clavicle

by Brett Angel

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association announced Wednesday afternoon that Ohio State’s Heather Farrell would not be suspended for the hit that broke the collarbone of Minnesota forward Krissy Wendell Saturday night.

“Internal action has been taken, but there will be no suspension,” said WCHA Associate Commissioner Sara Martin.

The hit occurred away from the puck near center ice in the final seconds of the Gophers’ 2-1 victory over the Buckeyes.

Ohio State women’s hockey coach Jackie Barto declined to comment on the situation but did say Martin had contacted her by phone Wednesday.

While the decision means Farrell will be allowed to compete in the Buckeyes’ series against Minnesota State-Mankato this weekend, Wendell and Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson are not as lucky.

Less than two hours before the start of Wednesday’s practice, Halldorson still hadn’t decided who would be skating on what line in the team’s afternoon drills.

Since finding out earlier this week that she’d be without Wendell for the remainder of the regular season, Halldorson hasn’t had much time to herself.

She’s been bombarded with questions about both the injury to her freshman phenom and her team’s upcoming series with second-ranked Minnesota-Duluth.

“I don’t know for sure what it’s going to look like,” Halldorson said of the Gophers’ lines. “When we get (to Duluth) Friday we’ll make our final decisions and see how it works out.”

With Wendell out, Minnesota will need its other Patty Kazmaier Award finalist Natalie Darwitz to step up big this weekend if the Gophers stand a chance of earning any points against the Bulldogs.

But Halldorson knows that expecting any one player to fill the void left by Wendell might be too much to ask – even Darwitz, who is first on the team and fifth in the nation in points scored (54).

Instead, she is hoping every athlete on the Gophers roster can adapt to the loss by moving around on the depth chart.

“Our players need to be ready to be flexible because we’re in an unusual situation,” Halldorson said. “We’ll try some things and see if they work and maybe even make some adjustments during the game.”

Mixing and matching her lineup wasn’t exactly what Halldorson was hoping to be spending her time on at this point in the season.

Even with a full roster, Halldorson would need all the time and energy she could spare to prepare for two-time defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth.

The Bulldogs feature the country’s leading scorer, Jenny Potter (71 points), and rank first in the conference in nearly every statistical category, including penalty minutes per game.

“It puts us in a situation where we’re going to be forced to respond,” Halldorson said. “What’s most important is not where each individual is playing, but more just getting mentally ready and focused on what we need to be doing on the ice. (The injury to Wendell) changes the complexion of the match-up a little bit, but hopefully adversity will bring out the best in us and people will rise to the occasion.”

Gophers forward La Toya Clarke, who just returned to the team from international competition in Germany, sees this weekend as an opportunity to prove Minnesota can still win without one of its Olympians.

“It sucks to lose one of our best players,” Clarke said. “But it’s a team sport and we have to go out and work just as hard and play our hearts out.”

Alvarez honored

Minnesota sophomore gymnast Guillermo Alvarez was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week for the second consecutive week this season.

This is also the second time he has received such honors in his career. Alvarez finished among the top five in four different events at the Winter Cup Challenge, which featured over 80 of the nation’s top gymnasts.

Alvarez placed fourth in the all-around with a score of 52.925 and advanced to the finals in three events, winning the floor exercise in competition with a final tally of 9.300.

He also placed fourth on the pommel horse (8.975) and fifth on the vault (9.250). Nationally, Alvarez ranks second in the floor exercise, third on vault and pommel horse and fifth all-around.

Alvarez and his Minnesota teammates will next compete against Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 15 at the Sports Pavilion.