Minnesota’s women’s hockey team begins its 2001-02 campaign with Minnesota State, Mankato, on Friday at Mariucci Arena amid questions of inexperience, indecision and injury.
The inexperience is to be expected from such a young team with only five juniors and seniors – none on the blueline or between the pipes.
The goaltender situation is particularly sketchy, having one sophomore with six games of experience and a pair of freshmen battling for each start.
“It’s still a few days from game time,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “We usually make those decisions the day before the game.
“My guess is that it’s either going to be (freshman Jody) Horak or (sophomore Stephanie) Johnson to start the first game, but that has not been determined yet.”
Ailing incoming freshman Renee Curtin is skating with the team in practice but has not been cleared to play at this point.
“She’s a question mark for the weekend,” Halldorson said, adding that several other players have bumps and bruises as well.
The 10 rookies on the team have been adjusting to a more formalized strategy on the ice. Halldorson is still feeding them a lot of information only days before the season opener.
“This week we’re going to work on special teams – power play and penalty kill,” Halldorson said.
Despite the amount of preparation the players are going through, Halldorson maintains they will be ready for the Mavericks, a team which Minnesota beat in all four meetings last season.
Forwards Tracy Engstrom, Laura Slominski, Ronda Curtin, and La Toya Clarke played on the WCHA Women’s League All-Star team last weekend against the U.S. National Team.
On Friday in Madison, Wisc., the U.S. National Team beat the All-Stars 3-0 and concluded the weekend with a 6-1 win on Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Goalie Tuula Puputti of Minnesota-Duluth stopped 47 of 50 shots in the Friday’s game for the All-Stars.
The All-Stars didn’t score the whole weekend until the 16:31 mark of the third period on Saturday when the Bulldogs Hanne Sikio rebounded a shot by Wisconsin’s Kerry Weiland.
Aaron Blake covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]