Women’s hockey faces more top competition

by Paul Markgraff

Dartmouth College, a member of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, is coming to Mariucci Arena this weekend to face the Gophers women’s hockey team.
It’s a weekend that could help to build the confidence of a Minnesota team after the Gophers were shocked by two losses against the University of Minnesota-Duluth last weekend.
But that confidence builder is going to be difficult. The sixth-ranked Big Green (5-2-0, 5-2-0 ECAC) are a team that’s tough to do battle with. They have scoring power, a tough defense and three goaltenders who are all very capable of performing well in clutch situations.
“Dartmouth is good; they beat Harvard,” said Gophers coach Laura Halldorson. “I think they are a very solid team.”
But there are a couple of different things the Gophers need to work on before they face the Big Green.
“I think they are a very disciplined team. They play good positions,” said Halldorson. “We have to play disciplined ourselves.”
Second, Halldorson sees the Gophers’ consistency and scoring attack as the key to winning this series. She wants the Gophers to play the best they can every time they step on the ice, regardless of who they play. She says that kind of attitude will make the real difference as the team fights into the second half of the season.
Fortunately for the Gophers, Dartmouth has not played a game since Nov. 23 when they spanked Boston College 9-2. During that game, the Big Green destroyed Boston College, raining 54 shots down on the unsuspecting Eagles.
Dartmouth’s defense also played a very important role in that game, allowing only 15 shots on goal.
Last year, the Big Green finished 16-5-1, an impressive record in the ECAC. They also managed a fifth-place finish overall.
But the Gophers have been there, too. Minnesota finished third in last season’s AWCHA Championship. And although Minnesota has never faced the Big Green before, after last weekend’s heart-breaking loss to Duluth, the Gophers are sure to be looking for a little redemption.
And the Big Green have to face Minnesota at Mariucci Arena, a historically difficult place to play. Since the Gophers have been playing at Mariucci Arena, they are 28-8-5.
Mariucci is larger than the arena Dartmouth is used to, which could take a little getting used to for the Big Green. Some teams have had problems adjusting to the Olympic-sized rink this season, an excuse some have used for losing.
“Hopefully, we can take advantage of them getting adjusted to the environment,” Halldorson said.
But in the meantime, she wants to jump on Dartmouth right out of the gates.
“I think the key for us is to get on them early. We need to be ready for the first period of each series,” she said.
“(Dartmouth) is a veteran team. We’d like to go out on a positive note.”

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