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Gophers lighting it up in women’s world hockey championships

Eight former, current and future Gophers are representing four different countries in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Women’s World Hockey Championships in Brampton, Ontario.
Nelli Laitinen, a first year, is tied for first place in points in the tournament so far. Photo courtesy of University Athletics

Gophers women’s hockey has eight representatives at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) Women’s World Championships — tied for the most of any Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) team this season. Minnesota Duluth is also sending eight current and former players to the tournament.

The Women’s World Championships – set in Brampton, Ontario, this year — features four current Gophers, three alumni and one future Gopher.

Current players Taylor Heise and Abbey Murphy are representing the United States alongside alumni Amanda Kessel, Kelly Pannek and Lee Stecklein. International first-years Josefin Bouveng and Nelli Laitinen are representing Sweden and Finland, respectively. Incoming first-year Emma Kreisz is playing for Hungary in the tournament.

In their opening game against Japan on Wednesday,, Heise and Murphy each had 1 goal in the 7-1 rout. Kessel had an assist in the win, and Heise assisted on the United States’ first goal.

Laitinen had an incredible game in Finland’s opening match on Wednesday against France, scoring Finland’s ninth goal of the game and adding three assists for a stellar 4-point performance. She skated just under 21 minutes with a +4 plus-minus rating in the 14-1 win.

Kreisz was held pointless in Hungary’s 4-2 opening win over Germany. However, she did tally three shots on goal as well as more than 20 minutes of ice time. In last year’s Women’s World Championship, Kreisz had 1 goal in four games.

On Friday, Murphy made IIHF history, recording the fastest goal to open a game in the United States’ 9-1 win over Switzerland. Murphy beat Swiss and St. Thomas goaltender Saskia Maurer short-side just seven seconds into the game.

Playing for St. Thomas, Maurer is familiar with Murphy; in the Gophers’ first-round series of the WCHA tournament against St. Thomas this past season, Murphy scored twice against Maurer.

Kessel also had a goal in the United States’ win. In addition to her record-setting goal, Murphy had two assists. Heise had three assists, with one being a helper on Kessel’s goal.

In Finland’s second game against Germany, Laitinen had the primary assist on Finland’s third goal of the 3-0 win.

After two games, Heise and Laitinen are a part of a four-way tie for first place in points in the tournament, each with 5.

Murphy has 4 points so far and leads the tournament with a staggering 25 penalty minutes. She received a major penalty and a game misconduct in the game against Switzerland for charging and is suspended for the United States’ game versus Czechia.

The Gopher representatives have done nothing but impress on the international stage and look to continue their dominance throughout the remainder of the tournament, which ends on Sunday.

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