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Old coaching rivals face off when Brown visits Ridder

Laura Halldorson and Digit Murphy have known each other from the beginning – since the beginning of their coaching careers anyway.

Halldorson, now the women’s hockey coach at Minnesota, and Murphy, the head coach at Brown, competed against each other for two years on the ice as collegiate players. Halldorson skated for Princeton and Murphy skated for Cornell.

But the pair didn’t get to know each other until both became coaches.

The two were often on opposing benches while assistants for Ivy League programs during the 1980s – Murphy at Brown and Halldorson at Princeton.

“We go way back; we’re the old ladies of the group,” Halldorson said, referring to the other women’s college hockey coaches in the nation.

Both were hired to head coaching positions in the fall of 1989 and have competed against each other regularly since then.

“It’s a friendly rivalry,” Murphy said of her relationship with Halldorson. So friendly in fact, Halldorson is the godmother of Murphy’s youngest son.

The rivalry will be renewed this weekend when Minnesota (9-0-1, 7-0-1 WCHA) plays host to Brown (2-2-0, 1-1-0 ECAC) Saturday afternoon at Ridder Arena. The game is the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season.

Both share a deep appreciation for the sport that has become their lifestyle and an intense desire to see its potential realized.

“When (the other women’s hockey coaches) ask about how it used to be they always ask us,” Halldorson said. “There are some other coaches that have been around since we started, but not many. So, we try to give our sport perspective.”

The coaches said players on both sides recognize the connection between their coaches, but it’s not as if they need any additional inspiration to get up for the game.

The Bears ended Minnesota’s bid for a national title last season when they defeated the Gophers in the first round of the NCAA Frozen Four in March.

Prior to that contest, Minnesota had tasted a couple of sweet victories at Brown’s expense. The Gophers won their only national championship in 2000 and the third place match the year before against the Bears.

“We only get one shot against them every year so we’ve got to make it good,” Minnesota junior forward La Toya Clarke said.

Senior captain Ronda Curtin, who played in both the 2000 national championship and last year’s loss, said the matchup has added significance as a tie-breaker when the NCAA selection committee decides who to invite to the Frozen Four in March.

“At the end of the year when they decide who’s going to the national tournament, they look at that,” Curtin said.

Halldorson has won nearly 80 percent of the games in her five-plus seasons at Minnesota, but must count Brown as one of two teams she posts a losing record against (4-5-1).

The other is Harvard, who Minnesota welcomes Sunday. The Gophers are 2-3-0 all-time against Harvard and have never defeated the Crimson in three games at home.

Clarke honored

junior forward La Toya Clarke became the fifth Minnesota player in as many weeks to earn a conference award.

Clarke was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week for her performance against Bemidji State last weekend. Clarke scored four points in the series, including the game-tying goal Saturday that forced a tie and kept the Gophers’ unbeaten streak in tact.

Clarke later injured her left ankle in overtime. She did not participate in practice Tuesday, but the injury is not considered serious and she hopes to play this weekend.

“It’s been like three days since I’ve been on the ice,” Clarke said. “I’m going crazy.”

Brett Angel covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]
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