Young players setting tone for women’s hockey success

Aaron Blake

Minnesota’s women’s hockey team is settling into its respective roles and becoming a very good young squad.

The emergence of freshmen has catapulted the revamped Gophers (6-2-2, 5-1-2 WCHA) into first place in the WCHA heading into this weekend.

An east-coast swing pits No. 8 Minnesota against No. 3 Brown on Saturday and Harvard on Sunday. Both games are slated for 2 p.m. starts.

“I like the way this team is coming together,” senior captain Tracy Engstrom said.

Freshman forward Kelly Stephens leads the team in goals with seven and is second in points. Fellow freshman Kristy Oonincx has five points despite playing in only the past four games.

Her two goals and one assist in Sunday’s 9-0 blowout of Bemidji State earned Ooninex WCHA
rookie of the week honors. She is the third Gopher to receive such recognition in the first five weeks of the season, following Stephens and goaltender Brenda Reinen.

Reinen, who got her first start against undefeated Minnesota-Duluth, has permitted only seven goals in five games, good for a 1.34 goals average and a 2-1-2 record.

Freshman Jody Horak, the team’s second stopper, gave up two goals in her first half-period, but hasn’t allowed a goal since. Her shutout of Bemidji State last Sunday earned her a 2-0-0 record.

Sophomore Stephanie Johnson started the first three games of the season, but allowed seven goals against the Bulldogs and quit the team before the Ohio State series.

Halldorson wouldn’t commit to a goalie rotation this weekend, but splitting the games between Reinen and Horak has been effective for the past two weeks.

The lines were also revised
following Saturday’s 2-2 tie. The new concoction produced a nine-goal outburst.

But the young team still has work to do, specifically on special teams.

The Gophers gave up two power-play goals to the Beavers in Saturday’s disappointing tie.

“Historically, power play and penalty kill are two things that usually develop as the season goes on,” Halldorson said.

Minnesota was also struggling to score goals before Sunday’s game, with only 17 goals in their first nine games. The Gophers ranked sixth out of seven teams in the WCHA before the nine-goal performance.

Blowing out Bemidji State jump-started Minnesota’s attitude and the Gophers head into the weekend with a revived offense.

ï Chelsey Brodt from Roseville, Minn., signed a National Letter of Intent and will join the women’s hockey program for the 2002-03 campaign.