Minnesota’s 10-game win streak ends suddenly over break

Brian Deutsch

Coming into arguably one of the most important series of the season, the Minnesota women’s hockey team was riding high on a 10-game winning streak.

Unfortunately for the Gophers, their opponent, Wisconsin, had its own impressive number – one. As in one loss all season, a 2-0 loss to Minnesota-Duluth on Nov. 24.

Minnesota also used the number one, but its stat was not nearly as positive.

The Gophers scored one goal in the series, dropping two games by scores of 4-1 and 3-0.

“I think our opponents had a lot to do with (the results),” coach Laura Halldorson said. “If I were the scheduler, I probably wouldn’t match us up with the Badgers the first weekend in, but that’s just the way the schedule fell.”

As if two losses to the top-ranked team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association weren’t hard enough to swallow, Minnesota continued to struggle Friday against Ohio State in a 7-1 loss before striking back with a 3-1 win Saturday.

“We were night and day (against Ohio State), no one could pinpoint what went wrong Friday, it just didn’t go right for us,” junior forward Bobbi Ross said. “All we can do is try to learn from this weekend and be happy with the way we bounced back.”

UMD catches fire

Due largely to a strong start in the second half of the season, Minnesota-Duluth has quietly slid into a second-place tie in the WCHA with the Gophers.

While Minnesota has temporarily stalled at the beginning of the second half of the season, the Bulldogs have used the break to turn over a new leaf.

After snapping a four-game losing streak the weekend before the break, Minnesota-Duluth hasn’t lost since.

The Bulldogs scored nine goals to pick up a morale-boosting win Dec. 9 against Ohio State – Minnesota-Duluth had scored only one goal during the losing streak.

The Bulldogs started off the second half with a 3-3 tie against Niagara before sneaking past the Purple Eagles with a 2-1 win the following day.

Last weekend, Minnesota-Duluth swept St. Cloud State with a 4-2 win Saturday and a 1-0 shutout in the finale.

To top it off, the Bulldogs have been playing shorthanded.

Minnesota-Duluth has seen a large number of injuries over the past two months including several players going down with season-ending injuries.

“I really didn’t know what to expect against St. Cloud all things considered,” Bulldogs coach Shannon Miller said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a team having six scholarship players out at one time.”

Gophers go global

Over the break, several Minnesota players represented their home countries in amateur play.

Two Gophers participated with the Canadian Under-22 team at the Air Canada Cup in Germany.

Ross and sophomore Melanie Gagnon had roster positions on a Canadian team, which won the tournament.

“(The tournament) is a six-team competition, with two pools of three,” Ross said. “We ended up playing Germany three times, including an exhibition game, and we won every game by four or more goals.”

Meanwhile, senior Andrea Nichols, juniors Anya Miller and Rachael Drazan, sophomore Gigi Marvin and freshman Kelli Blankenship took part in the 2006 USA Hockey Holiday Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Junior Erica McKenzie was invited to the camp but was unable to attend due to a knee injury.

The evaluation camp featured daily practices, scrimmages and strength training for 42 players, some of which will eventually form the U.S. Olympic team.

“Any time you can get that experience, it is beneficial personally for those players,” Halldorson said. “It was a tiring experience, especially for the Canadians, and it made practice a little bit interesting during the first week.”