Women’s hockey to endure Brown’s unique offense

Noah Seligman

Minnesota’s top-ranked women’s hockey team hopes for smooth sailing this weekend when it heads out east to Providence, R.I., for a two-game set against Brown University.

But the Bears boast a slightly different alignment, the torpedo system, which can create some choppy play on the ice.

“They tend to fly at least one person out into the neutral zone quite often,” Gophers’ assistant coach Joel Johnson said. “That can be something you can take advantage of, and it can also be something that can hurt you.”

The torpedo system is designed to stretch the ice. The alignment allows Brown to gain possession quickly for swift transitions to its offensive attack.

One forward stays out of the defensive zone and waits at neutral ice. This forces a defender to hang back, creating a four-on-four situation in the defensive zone, something the Gophers think will benefit them.

“It gives us more space,” assistant coach Brad Frost said. “It’s actually to our advantage to be able to have more time, more space in their zone to make some plays happen.”

The Gophers want to work the puck low in the zone to take advantage of their speed.

Minnesota also hopes its defense will be able to generate shots from the point against the torpedo system.

But the Gophers still have to be careful to guard against Brown’s quick attack.

“The third forward has to be a little more conscious of their quick transition,” Frost said. “Stay a little higher and then be ready to back-check hard and pick somebody up.”

Brown can use the floater in the neutral zone to create a second flow of offense. The skater in neutral ice can receive a pass out of the defensive zone and tip it forward to a speed player rushing through the zone, similar to the hook-and-lateral play in football.

Minnesota lost 2-1 to Brown at the 2002 Frozen Four, giving up a goal on that very same play.

Puck possession in the offensive zone for Minnesota can alleviate some of a transition game’s pressure.

“If we can maintain control of the puck, we’ll be in great shape,” Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said. “Then we don’t have to worry about defending that play.”

The unusual formation forces the Gophers to change their playing style and individual responsibilities.

“It’s a little different, you have to adjust to it,” junior forward Noelle Sutton said. “The main thing is you just have to adjust to them, or play your own game and make them adjust to you.”

Coach Johnson agreed.

“It does put a little pressure on the defense,” Johnson said. “But it also puts pressure on our forward to not give Brown any time and space to move the puck up the ice.”

Minnesota is coming off a bye week and hungry to get back to work. The Gophers hope to get back in rhythm after a week off.

“The key is for us to play at the level that we’re capable of playing. To be consistent, to work hard and to execute,” Halldorson said. “If we do those things I think we’ll have a great weekend.”

The all-time series between the schools is tied at 5-5-1. Brown is coached by Digit Murphy, who has compiled a 243-103-32 record in 14 years at the school. Murphy has the most wins of any other current Division I coach. Brown posted a 14-14-1 record last year and finished fifth in the ECAC.