Women’s hockey faces tougher test at Providence

Paul Markgraff

Coming off of a pair of 10-1 wins against St. Cloud State last weekend, the Gophers women’s hockey team will play a more experienced and dangerous team this weekend: Providence College.
Though the Gophers won both games against the Friars last season — by scores of 1-0 and 5-1 — they had the advantage of playing Providence on Minnesota’s ice.
This time around, the Gophers head to Providence’s home ice in what may be a battle between goaltenders.
Last year, the Friars managed to keep the Gophers from running up the score by slowing the pace of the game and by keeping the Gophers from scoring. This season, the Friars returned all six defensive players and added one new player.
But goaltender Sara DeCosta has made all the difference for Providence.
“She’s a good goalie,” said Gophers junior winger Nadine Muzerall. “She covers the net pretty well everywhere. We have to get a lot of shots on her; we’re going to have to crash the net.”
DeCosta has enough accolades to make her one of the premier goalies in the game. Last year, she was second team all-america and first team All-ECAC. She finished the season with a 2.32 goals against average. DeCosta also earned a gold medal in the 1998 Olympic Games with Team USA.
During the Friars’ series with the Gophers last season, DeCosta posted 37 saves the first game and 36 saves in the second.
Gophers coach Laura Halldorson knows DeCosta is a great goalie. She said that if DeCosta can see the shot coming, 9 out of 10 times she will make the save.
“The challenge for us will be to create good scoring opportunities and put them away,” she said.
But Providence will probably have some difficulty scoring as well — Minnesota goalie Erica Killewald isn’t exactly a slouch between the pipes. Last year Killewald led the nation in GAA (1.24) and save percentage (.947). She tied for second in the nation for shutouts (7) and earned all-tournament honors at the AWCHA tournament.
Killewald allowed only one goal on 26 shots during last season’s series against Providence, and started this season off with nine saves against St. Cloud in the Gophers’ home opener. Killewald must do her job well if Minnesota plans on sweeping.
Killewald said she expects this next game to be a test because she really wasn’t tested much against St. Cloud.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a battle,” she said of Providence. “Hopefully we’ll come out on top.”

Paul Markgraff covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]