No contest: Fresh faces fuel women’s hockey 10-0 romp

Brett Angel

The statistics from Minnesota’s women’s hockey exhibition game against the Toronto Junior Aeros Friday won’t mean anything once the regular season starts next Saturday in Findlay, Ohio.

But the impression that the Gophers’ freshman class made in their first game wearing the maroon and gold was a lasting one.

Freshmen Krissy Wendell and Natalie Darwitz both recorded hat tricks as Minnesota defeated the severely overmatched Aeros 10-0 at Mariucci Arena.

Five different players scored first period goals for the Gophers, including Wendell, Darwitz and fellow freshman Ashley Albrecht.

“Our freshman class had a huge impact on the game’s outcome,” Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson said. “I think we saw a glimpse of what this team is capable of doing.”

The Aeros, an Ontario team composed of mostly high school players, were outshot 41-9 and managed just four shots through the first two periods.

The Gophers, on the other hand, scored so frequently during the first 20 minutes of play that Mariucci Arena’s public address announcer was twice interrupted by goals as he tried to announce the previous scorer’s name.

Albrecht started the scoring just 1:06 into the contest with a backhand shot for a goal.

Darwitz scored her first goal as a Gopher 2:21 into the game on a rebound after an initial save was made on a Ronda Curtin slapshot.

Wendell got into the action just over a minute later, depositing the puck into the left side of the net after a textbook assist from Allie Sanchez, another freshman.

Senior defender Winny Brodt and sophomore forward Kelly Stephens also scored in the period to give Minnesota a 5-0 lead.

The game marked the first time Wendell and Darwitz, who spent the past year as part of the U.S. National team that competed in the Salt Lake City Olympics, competed as members of the Gophers.

“I was really excited. It’s nice to have the big ‘M’ on the front of the jersey,” said Wendell, who totaled five points on Friday. “I’m a Minnesota kid, so it’s nice to be back here playing.”

Halldorson commended her freshman class for their performance Friday, but said the victory was still a team effort.

“There were a lot of new players that scored,” Halldorson said, “but we need everybody, and everybody contributed tonight.”

The exhibition is the only game this season scheduled to be played at Mariucci Arena.

The team will play the rest of its home games next door at the new Ridder Arena. The Gophers open up against St. Could State on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Minnesota expected to start practicing in their new facility today, but a mechanical problem has delayed the move until further notice.