Womens hockey still in first after win, tie on road

by Monica Wright

Before either Minnesota’s (9-2-1, 8-1-1 WCHA) or Wisconsin’s (9-3-2, 6-2-2 WHCA) women’s hockey teams took the ice last weekend, it was pretty clear who the winner was.
Kenny Rogers.
The Gambler had the upper hand in Madison when his Christmas concert demoted the series from the Dane County Coliseum to the miniature Middleton Ice Arena outside of town.
But in a season that has seen a game cancelled after two zambonis burst into flames, coach Laura Halldorson said she was keeping the move in perspective.
“It’s better than getting kicked out of Duluth’s arena last February for a tractor pull,” Halldorson said.
Despite the unusual circumstances, the Gophers took a cue from Rogers and dealt Wisconsin a 5-2 win and a 4-4 tie to stay atop first place in the WCHA.
Friday night began with Minnesota in a serious slump as Wisconsin outshot the Gophers 22-14 in the first period and scoring phenom Meghan Hunter — the current national point leader — scored in the first six minutes of the game on a power play.
The power play goal was especially disappointing to the Gophers because penalty kill has been the focus of practice after problems earlier in the season.
Though senior Nadine Muzerall answered Hunter’s goal with just sixteen seconds left in the period, the Gophers needed a rally to survive the rest of the game.
Muzerall answered the call and scored Minnesota’s next two goals, earning her first hat-trick of the season. The rest of the team followed suit as the Gophers held a 27-16 advantage over the Badgers for the remaining periods.
Teammates Ambria Thomas and Laura Slominski rounded out the scoring in the third period to insure the 5-2 win.
Focused on their strong start, coach Trina Bourget said the Badgers didn’t lose for lack of pressure on the Gophers.
“One of our goals for this weekend was to come out hard against Minnesota and we did that,” coach Trina Bourget said. “But we had some unlucky bounces and shots hitting the pipes and we didn’t capitalize on Minnesota’s rebounds. It was a learning experience and we played hard until the final buzzer.”
As Halldorson predicted Friday night, Minnesota’s dominant win served as the extra incentive the Badgers needed to contain the Gophers to a 4-4 tie Saturday.
Again, Saturday’s game began with the Badgers scoring first and jumped to an early 2-0 lead in the opening eight minutes. Though seniors Courtney Kennedy and Ambria Thomas contributed goals, Wisconsin led until early in the third period.
Down 4-3, Muzerall starred again. She stole the puck at the Wisconsin blueline and toppled Badgers goaltender Jackie MacMillan with a crippling shot over the goalie’s glove.
Muzerall’s game-tying point was also her 200th point and 119th goal of her career.
With four points over the weekend, Muzerall said the catalyst for the team’s strong play had nothing to do with her scoring streak.
“Friday we had three power play goals and we really moved the puck,” Muzerall said. “That’s when we are really generating shots.”
Halldorson added that the weekend was a sign of an upswing in the season for the Gophers, something the defending national champions have waited for.
“Friday’s win showed we have more leadership, depth and battle this year.”

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