Women’s hockey hopes to use speed as an advantage

Speed kills. And Minnesota’s women’s hockey team looks to bury their opponents with it during the upcoming season.

The Gophers’ speed on the forward line will be a vital asset for the squad.

“We have some great speed up front, and that’s our biggest strength,” assistant coach Brad Frost said. “We can put a lot of pressure on the opposing team’s defensemen.”

The Gophers hope to use that pressure to force turnovers in the offensive zone and create goal-scoring opportunities for their forward line. For Minnesota, the best defense will be a fast offense.

Defensively, assistant coach Joel Johnson was pleased with the play of some of his new faces.

“I was happy to see the development in some of the younger players we’ve got,” Johnson said.

Minnesota will have to rely on freshman defenders Danielle Ashley and Lyndsay Wall to play some significant minutes immediately.

This weekend, the Gophers travel to Canada for two exhibition games against Oval X-Treme, an elite Canadian women’s hockey team. The coaches hope to use the exhibition games to learn more about the team and help the younger players adjust to playing at the college level.

But hockey is not the only purpose of the trek northward. Frost said the Gophers want to foster camaraderie on the ice, and the team also wants to use an early-season trip as an opportunity to become closer as a team.

“I think it will be great for our team to get on the road and spend some quality time together,” senior co-captain Kelsey Bills said, “and keep forming that team bond that’s so important.”

The Gophers hope to use the exhibition season to get off to a fast start once the WCHA season starts Oct. 18.

Clarke to miss weekend

Co-captain La Toya Clarke will miss the team’s exhibition games against Oval X-Treme this weekend. Clarke will participate in Team Canada’s Thanksgiving Festival Oct. 7-12. Sixty of Canada’s top female hockey players are invited to the festival to prepare for the upcoming 2004 IIHF World Women’s Hockey Championship.