New Hampshire and Minnesota set to dual

Monica Wright

The Minnesota women’s hockey team is known for several things: producing 10-0 and 11-1 wins, a player scoring five goals in a record-setting performance and not allowing goals against them during power plays.
They are not known for losing.
But this weekend, the Gophers face a different kind of rival, third-ranked New Hampshire. The Gophers have never defeated the Wildcats in the two-and-a-half year history of women’s hockey at Minnesota.
For the past two years, the Wildcats have been responsible for crippling the Gophers at exactly the right time. Most recently, the Gophers lost to them in the semifinals of the AWCHA national championship, 3-2 in overtime at Mariucci Arena last season.
Despite the history between the teams, coach Laura Halldorson doesn’t feel any undue pressure. Instead, New Hampshire has something to prove.
“I think all the pressure is on New Hampshire,” Halldorson said. “We like being the underdogs, and we’ve come awfully close to beating them — we want to make a statement to the East Coast teams.”
Junior Nadine Muzerall — who went on a five-goal scoring spree Saturday night against Bemidji State that resulted in a new school record — also feels no pressure to give a repeat performance.
“I need to do my part as a forward, but I don’t think all the weight is on my shoulders; it’s on the whole team to execute the plays,” Muzerall said.
Muzerall shares a special connection of her own with New Hampshire: Several of her high school classmates are on the roster, as well as one close family friend, Wildcats senior Samantha Holmes.
But Muzerall has no qualms about loyalty and fair play against friends. Last year Holmes punched her in a game and received a penalty while Muzerall laughed.
“I don’t have any friends on the ice,” Muzerall said. “You can’t have friends in competitive hockey. It’s going to be an intense game; we’re all fighting for the puck, and I will tear her apart if I have to.”
With key players Megan Milbert and Winny Brodt out with shoulder and back injuries respectively, it might come down to that.
“We need to stay mentally focused and work hard in practice to make up for the losses,” freshman Ronda Curtin said last week.
Also on the minds of the fifth-ranked Gophers is the AWCHA championship. A sweep this weekend would mean better rankings and, if Minnesota doesn’t win the WCHA, it improves their chances for an at-large bid.
But right now, a win over New Hampshire is all they can focus on.
“Beating New Hampshire would be great for bragging rights after three years of losses,” Muzerall said.

Monica Wright covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]