Gophers women’s hockey: a season to be proud of

Despite falling short of a national title, Minnesota accomplished a lot this season.


Ethan Fine

Forward Audrey Wethington drives the puck down the ice during Minnesota’s game against St. Cloud, Feb. 11, 2022.

by Eitan Schoenberg

Sixty minutes was not enough for Friday night’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Frozen Four semifinal game, the Gophers’ last of the season. .

The two Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) powerhouses, Minnesota and Wisconsin, had yet another thrilling matchup to determine which team would advance to the national title game and which team would go home.

Prior to overtime, the Gophers had been trailing for more than half of the third period and needed to find a way to rally back and tie the game.

Discussing what Minnesota could do to net the equalizer, ice-level reporter Hilary Knight said on the ESPN+ broadcast, “get a good bounce — you just need pucks on net.”

Enter Madeline Wethington. Immediately after Knight’s comment, the senior defender blasted a shot from the point that deflected off of a Wisconsin defender and past goaltender Cami Kronish to tie the game.

Time expired about a minute later, and the two teams headed into overtime.

Despite the incredible comeback effort from the Gophers with Wethington’s late game-tying goal, Wisconsin still emerged victorious.

In the final minutes of the first overtime, Jesse Compher found Caroline Harvey in a prime shooting position at the top of the right circle. The All-American Wisconsin freshman made no mistake; Harvey delivered the season-ending blow with a top-shelf shot to beat Minnesota goaltender Skylar Vetter.

A season to be proud of

Regardless of their shortcomings in the Frozen Four, Minnesota’s 2022-23 season was one with many individual and team accomplishments.

The Gophers achieved 30 wins for the first time since the 2018-19 season and the seventh time with Brad Frost as head coach.

“We’re very proud of the season we had,” Frost said in a press email.

However, 30 wins was not the greatest team accolade; the Gophers dominated the WCHA tournament and claimed their first conference title since the 2017-18 season.

The team also returned to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2018-19. Although the team didn’t bring home the trophy, this season was a step in the right direction for the future.

Familiar fifth-year faces depart

With every season end comes the departure of graduating players.

The Gophers will have to say goodbye to nine fifth-year players, seven of which have played at Minnesota since their freshman year.

Catie Skaja, Gracie Ostertag, Taylor Heise, Grace Zumwinkle, Crystalyn Hengler, Emily Oden and Abigail Boreen will all move on after five seasons with the team.

Both Heise and Zumwinkle finished their collegiate careers in the Top 10 of point scoring in Gopher history. Additionally, both were Top 10 finalists for the 2023 Patty Kazmaier Award. Heise won the award last season, becoming the first Gopher to do so since Amanda Kessel in 2013.

Heise, Zumwinkle and Oden reside in first, second and third place, respectively, in games played as Gophers. Boreen and Hengler also hold Top 7 spots in that same list.

Initially, it may be difficult adjusting to the losses. However, there are many returning players that Gopher fans can look forward to.

The future is bright in Minneapolis

Looking ahead, sophomore Abbey Murphy was second in NCAA goal scoring with 29 goals and was named the WCHA Final Faceoff’s most outstanding player.

Fellow sophomore Ella Huber had an incredible season as well, tallying 29 points in 37 games. Sophomore netminder Vetter had an outstanding year, earning a spot on the All-WCHA Third Team in addition to recording seven shutouts.

There’s a lot of upside with first-years Josefin Bouveng, Madison Kaiser and Nelli Laitinen, who all improved significantly throughout the season. Laitinen was also named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team.

Minnesota’s 2023-24 season will not be short of opportunities for redemption — this season’s accomplishments show promise for the program’s future.