Help from the Huskies: St. Cloud State win lifts Minnesota to top of conference standings

The Gophers have a two-point advantage over Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA title race.

Chris Lempesis

Minnesota’s women’s hockey team hadn’t expected to take full control of the top spot in the WCHA until after this weekend’s series with Minnesota State-Mankato.

Thanks to St. Cloud State, however, the Gophers have it now.

The Huskies’ 4-3 upset of Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday, coupled with Minnesota’s sweep of North Dakota, gives the top-ranked Gophers (27-1-2, 22-0-2 WCHA) a two-point advantage over the Bulldogs in the race for the regular season conference championship.

The teams had been deadlocked at the top for approximately the last month.

“It’s nice to have a bit more distance between us and Duluth (now),” freshman forward Bobbi Ross said.

The Gophers and Bulldogs close out the season in Duluth, Minn., in two weeks in a series that was expected to decide which would be the No. 1 team in the WCHA tournament.

It might have little value now.

Minnesota-Duluth has this weekend off as a result of having played two more conference games than Minnesota.

So, if Minnesota sweeps Minnesota State-Mankato as expected, it would give Minnesota a six-point lead over Minnesota-Duluth and the regular season championship before the series with the Bulldogs even starts.

Minnesota said it felt it controlled its own destiny even before Minnesota-Duluth’s loss Saturday, and the team also said it learned a valuable lesson from Saturday’s upset.

“What the loss from Duluth shows us is that any night, any team can lose, and any team can win,” senior forward Kelly Stephens said.

“We have to just bear down and take every game seriously and come out ready to go.”

Coach Laura Halldorson said the Minnesota-Duluth loss is indicative of the state of the WCHA.

“Upsets (in the conference) are becoming more common now,” she said.

Reinen still perfect

For the first time all season, senior goaltender Brenda Reinen was between the pipes for both weekend games, recording a pair of wins over North Dakota.

The victories improved Reinen’s record to 10-0-0 on the season. Her goals-against average stands at a scant 0.90.

Reinen, who had been splitting time with starter Jody Horak more in recent weeks, played both games as a result of Horak’s one-game suspension (for unspecified reasons).

Wendell receives honor

Junior forward Krissy Wendell was named WCHA offensive player of the week for her performance against North Dakota.

Wendell recorded seven points (three goals, four assists) during

the weekend. All three goals came in Saturday’s 7-0 win. The hat trick was Wendell’s sixth of the season.

It is the second time this season and seventh time overall Wendell has received the honor.