Women’s hockey stays undefeated

by Noah Seligman

Minnesota’s top-ranked women’s hockey team found itself in an unfamiliar position over the weekend.

The Gophers did not win for the first time all year Saturday evening as they tied host Minnesota State-Mankato 1-1. But Minnesota responded to the setback in grand fashion, posting a 4-0 victory over the Mavericks on Sunday.

“I was proud of the way we came back (Sunday),” Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said. “We played really hard.”

Minnesota (9-0-1, 7-0-1 WCHA) controlled play from the opening face-off Sunday at All Seasons Arena. The Gophers posted a power-play goal at 18:41 of the first period. Senior co-captain LaToya Clarke pounced on a rebound off a blocked shot and went upstairs to give the Gophers the early lead. Freshman defender Lyndsay Wall and sophomore forward Krissy Wendell were credited with the assists.

Minnesota continued the offensive charge in the second period tallying two four-on-four goals within 76 seconds of each other. Junior forward Noelle Sutton gave the Gophers a 2-0 advantage, tipping in a goal, and Wendell scored on a breakaway to put the game away.

Freshman forward Becky Wacker tipped in a slap shot from sophomore defender Allie Sanchez at 2:48 of the third period to close out the scoring.

Eight players tallied points for the Gophers on Sunday.

Sunday marked the first time in 24 games that leading scorer sophomore forward Natalie Darwitz failed to tally a point. During her scoring streak Darwitz tallied 50 points, 24 coming this season.

Minnesota out-shot the Mavericks (7-4-1, 4-3-1) 41 to 16 in the game. Senior goalie Shari Vogt recorded 37 saves for Minnesota State. Junior net-minder Brenda Reinen earned the win for the Gophers and knotted her third career shutout and the second against Minnesota State.

The game was physical, with 17 penalties called against the two teams. Minnesota State was assessed a five-minute major at 19:04 of the second period for kneeing.

“It was a challenge to play that style of hockey,” Halldorson said. “That was a big win for us.”

On Saturday, Minnesota came out strong and dominated the first period of play. The Gophers fought hard for the puck and pressured the Mavericks throughout the opening period. On one occasion, senior Jerilyn Glenn fought through several Minnesota State defenders to win the puck.

The action was all in the Mavericks’ defensive zone. Minnesota took 32 shots in the period while holding Minnesota State to only one harmless shot on goal late in the first period.

Despite peppering the Mavericks’ defense, 32 shots by the Gophers only netted one power-play goal. Wall put home a blast from the blue line off an assist from Darwitz and Clarke.

The second and third stanzas would prove to be much less kind to Minnesota. The Mavericks stepped up their pressure with one player shadowing Wendell and Darwitz all over the ice.

“A team like that, if you give them time and space, they’re going to be dangerous,” Minnesota State coach Jeff Vizenor said.

At the 16:11 mark of the second period, the Mavericks had a goal disallowed. The goal framed was knocked off just before the shot scored.

However, just 1:58 into the third period Minnesota State put a goal home that counted. Junior forward Kearstin Solberg received a pass on the doorstep from line mate senior Amanda Osborn and lit the lamp to even the score.

In the extra frame Minnesota generated some chances but was unable to net a game-winner.

Overall, the Gophers out-shot the Mavericks 72 to 22, but only 42 of those attempts were on goal for Minnesota. A majority of the Gophers’ shots came from between the circles. Vogt finished with 41 saves for Minnesota State.

Minnesota did not expect its season to be perfect, but it did have an uplifting end to a difficult weekend.