Women’s hockey gets two wins

by Tim Nichols

In the world of women’s hockey, one of the major issues is who has the better talent pool, the United States or Canada. After this weekend, the United States can at least claim dominance over the province of Manitoba.
The Gophers (15-5-3) earned a sweep of the Manitoba Bisons (22-10-4), winning 3-0 Friday and 5-1 Saturday. In the series, Minnesota outshot Manitoba 86 to 28 and proved that its defense is just as strong as its offense.
On Friday, the Gophers shut out the Bisons as the nation’s leading scorer, Nadine Muzerall, had two goals and an assist.
The Ambria Thomas-Muzerall-Kris Scholz line has recently been called “The Production Line,” a moniker that was given to the 1960s Detroit Red Wings line that featured the great Gordie Howe.
Although Muzerall had three points Friday, she was not satisfied.
“Just because I got a couple points tonight, I still feel that my games (last weekend) against Northeastern were better,” she said.
Muzerall’s line accounted for eight of the Gophers’ nine points on Friday. After the game, coach Laura Halldorson issued a challenge to her second and third lines to step up in the series finale.
“I challenged them between the second and third periods,” Halldorson said. “I told them, ‘Lets bury the puck.’ Hopefully, we’ll see that tomorrow.”
The coach would not be disappointed.
Second line left wing Betsey Kukowski picked up three assists as the second and third lines accounted for five points. Kukowski said she thought the lower lines responded to the challenge, and Halldorson agreed.
“We took steps in the right direction,” Halldorson said.
The Bisons got on the board first Saturday during a delayed penalty on the Gophers. Manitoba’s Maria M’Lot threw the puck in front of the net on the right side that deflected of Gophers defender Emily Buchholz’s stick and slipped by goalie Erica Killewald.
The Gophers rebounded, though, to score five unanswered goals. Minnesota got on the board when Matty Brekken caught a long pass from Kukowski and beat Manitoba goaltender Pam Staples five-hole with two seconds remaining in the first period.
A very physical first period that featured a roughing penalty against Manitoba gave way to a more wide-open style of play in the final two periods that favored Minnesota.
The Production Line resumed the scoring 32 seconds in to the second period when Thomas slammed home a rebound from a Scholz wrister.
In the third period, the defenders started to get into the scoring act for the Gophers. Midway into the period, defender Brittny Ralph took a pass from Betsey Kukowski, then fired a slapper through a screen from just inside the blue line that beat Staples top shelf. After a Muzerall wraparound goal, defender Angela Borek recorded her second goal of the season when she wristed a shot that deflected off a couple Bisons players and ended up in the back of the net.
The Gophers’ defense, which has been overlooked for the most part of the year because of the constant scoring of the first line, established itself as an important part of the team’s success.
“We take a lot of pride (in our defense)”, Borek said. “I think we did a very good job of playing the body and holding them up then having the ‘D’ swing by and pick up the puck.”
Up next for the Gophers is a trip across the Mississippi River to Augsburg on Friday at 7 p.m. The Gophers opened their inaugural season with a 8-0 rout of the Auggies.