Gophers focus on learning from mistakes

No. 2 Minnesota will be without its top goalie, Noora Räty.

John Hageman

Despite what the scoreboard read, the players and coaches of the No. 2 Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey team were not completely enthused about their sweep of North Dakota last weekend. On Monday, the Gophers watched what they knew was not their best effort as coaches sat down the players for a film session that highlighted the various breakaway opportunities they gave the Sioux. âÄúIt was just kind of a light bulb going off in our heads that we need to pick it up this weekend and go out and play the way we know how to play and not make mistakes that we made last weekend,âÄù junior captain Terra Rasmussen said. The Gophers (19-3-4, 15-2-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) have not had much experience losing this year, something Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said can make the learning process difficult. âÄúSometimes itâÄôs not as easy to learn from a win because you donâÄôt think you did as many things wrong,âÄù Frost said. âÄúPeople say, âÄòGreat weekend; didnâÄôt allow a goal,âÄô and thatâÄôs true, and thatâÄôs great. But our goaltender had the biggest impact on that.âÄù The Gophers will be without their star goalie this weekend, as freshman Noora Räty will leave the team Friday to join the Finnish National Team. Team Finland will head to Colorado to face Team USA for the final game of the Qwest Tour before heading to Vancouver for the 2010 winter games. She will not return until Feb. 26, team spokeswoman Michelle Traen said. Frost said he has not yet decided if sophomore Alyssa Grogan or junior Jenny Lura will start in her place this weekend. Both goalies will have big shoes to fill, as Räty is currently leading the nation in goals against average (.8018), save percentage (.967) and shutouts (7). But Grogan has proved that she can provide a presence in the net, boasting a 5-1-0 record including two shutouts so far this season. Lura has not seen much action this season, only appearing for nine-and-a-half minutes. âÄúI think that Grogan and Lura arenâÄôt used to being out on the ice during a game,âÄù Rasmussen said. âÄúWe need to be there as a team for them and to build up their confidence.âÄù The Gophers will look to right the wrongs of last weekend when Minnesota State-Mankato (4-15-5, 2-13-5 WCHA) visits this weekend. The last time the two teams met in mid-November, the Gophers took the first game 4-1, but needed a come-from-behind shootout victory to win the second contest. Senior captain Michelle Maunu said the Gophers will look to get on the board early to tame the MankatoâÄôs transitional threat. The Mavericks have struggled especially as of late, dropping their last five, but they have proven they can hang with the best, beating No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth back on Nov. 21. âÄúThey play us really, really tough,âÄù Frost said. âÄúThey may be towards the bottom of our league in points, but theyâÄôre a really dangerous team, and weâÄôll for sure have to play our best.âÄù The Mavericks will also be without one of their top players, as junior Nina Tikkinen will join Räty and Team Finland. While the Gophers look to fix the mistakes from last weekend for a crucial final stretch of the season, other squads in the conference will be battling for seeding in the WCHA playoffs. The third through sixth teams in the conference (Bemidji State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and St. Cloud State, respectively) are separated by just four points. Wisconsin will head to Columbus to face the Buckeyes, while St. Cloud hosts Bemidji this weekend. While most of the conference battles for position, the Gophers still hold a seven-point lead over Minnesota-Duluth, but Frost said he is not concerned with what happens elsewhere. âÄúIf we keep winning, weâÄôre in good shape,âÄù Frost said. âÄúI know there are some good races going on, but that doesnâÄôt concern us.âÄù The puck will drop on the first game of the series at 7:07 p.m. on Friday at Ridder Arena, while SaturdayâÄôs matchup begins at 4:07 p.m.