After an intense matchup last weekend against rival Minnesota-Duluth, the Gophers are still basking in the glory of their series with the WCHA frontrunner.
Minnesota beat and tied Duluth last weekend and the effects of the Duluth matchup are still reverberating for the Gophers.
Freshman Ronda Curtin was named WCHA rookie of the week for the third time this season after scoring three points in the two games against the Bulldogs.
“I had no idea I had won the award,” Curtin said. “I didn’t expect it at all.”
Curtin may not have seen it coming, but coach Laura Halldorson did.
“We had a lot of fun in Duluth and played really well — it was a rewarding experience for the whole team,” Halldorson said.
But the Gophers don’t get to ride the Duluth wave forever.
Reality returns for the team this Friday with a series against St. Cloud State, a team the Gophers trounced 10-1, 10-1 back in October. Even with those numbers, Halldorson knows she has to prepare for the Huskies.
“We don’t think we can take anyone lightly,” Halldorson said. “We can’t get caught up in rankings and media attention; we don’t want to get complacent.”
Minnesota can’t afford to take things easy. The Gophers are just one point behind Duluth in the WCHA standings and need to be in position to take over if the Bulldogs lose or tie.
The Gophers, who are already playing short on defense — Megan Milbert and Winny Brodt are both on the injured list — may also have to face the Huskies without the help of junior powerhouse Courtney Kennedy.
Kennedy, who crashed into the boards in a game against Minnesota State a week and a half ago, received 20 internal and four external stitches to close a wound on her knee.
Despite the handicap, Curtin stays positive about what the team can do.
“It’s all about preparation and mental toughness in game,” Curtin said. “We need to come into each game focused and prepared to play, not worrying about our past performances.”
But couldn’t Minnesota coast through the next two weekends until the WCHA championship?
Not according to junior Nadine Muzerall.
“What do we gain by playing badly?” Muzerall said. “Bad habits develop, and we don’t want that for the tournament. We’re hot right now, but you can’t get too cocky or you’re in trouble.”
Monica Wright covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]