Women’s hockey sweeps uninspired Huskies

by Aaron Blake

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – With 4:22 remaining in the third period Saturday, Minnesota women’s hockey forward La Toya Clarke was brought down from behind on a breakaway. She proceeded to shovel the puck from her stomach to a streaking Kristy Oonincx, who scored top-shelf on St. Cloud State goaltender Marie Witchey.

The solid effort went all but uncelebrated, as it was the final tally in a 9-1 drubbing the first-ranked Gophers (26-3-5, 19-2-3 WCHA) laid on the uninspired Huskies (7-26-1, 6-17-1) at the National Hockey Center. Minnesota also defeated St. Cloud State 4-1 on Friday at Mariucci Arena.

“It’s great to play in a game like this,” said Gopher forward Jerilyn Glenn, who nearly scored a hat trick on several occasions but finished with a pair of scores. “It’s tons of fun, and we can work on things that we need to work on. But it’s still challenging.”

Minnesota will be the top-seed in this weekend’s WCHA women’s tournament. The Gophers will face either Bemidji State or Ohio State on Friday at Fogerty Arena in Blaine.

The same Huskies team that shut out Minnesota-Duluth 3-0 just six days earlier deployed an overzealous forecheck, giving the Gophers many odd-player rushes in the St. Cloud State zone.

Oonincx, who scored the game-winning goal in the first period, defended her team’s effort.

“We worked really hard for those goals,” Oonincx said. “I don’t think they were too easy. They were goals from good plays and good decisions and some hard work.”

In addition, Huskies coach Kerry Brodt Wetherington played all three goalies in her final game behind the bench. After starter Ellen Brinkman allowed a pair of Minnesota goals in the initial period, a slumping Laura Gieselman and an inexperienced Witchey took their turns facing the offensive onslaught.

Gieselman allowed three goals on the four shots she faced early in the second period. Ronda Curtin’s goal at 6:29 on Witchey was the Gophers’ fourth in a 5:35 span.

Curtin and Oonincx led the Gophers with five points each. The line of Oonincx, Clarke and Kelly Stephens contributed five of the nine Minnesota goals with the third line accounting for three more. In all, 10 Gophers tallied points.

Minnesota also had a diverse effort on Friday, with four different players scoring the four goals and six players tallying points ñ including stopper Jody Horak’s first career assist.

Stephens scored first for the Gophers, going backhand while coming across the crease and putting the puck under Brinkman’s pads. Curtin scored the game-winner at 8:03 of the second period after taking a rebound off Horak the length of the ice and beating three Husky defenders.

Horak and Saturday’s winning goalie Brenda Reinen faced only 35 total shots the entire weekend.

“This is a team that beat Duluth last weekend so we’re happy with the sweep,” Gophers coach Laura Halldorson said. “It’ll give us some momentum going into the WCHA tournament.”

Aaron Blake covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]