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Monday, October 25, 2021

No rest for slow-starting Gophers women’s hockey team

The Gophers are doing 1-3 in the women’s hockey series this weekend with the Minnesota State Mankato, but there are bright spots among the clear problems that Minnesota needs to fix.

The Gophers have led three of their four games and several freshmen have already stepped in to help, which will be key as the team’s top scorers, Grace Zumwinkle and Abby Murphy, train with the US team in Blaine and Blaine. won’t be back this season.

Unfortunately for head coach Brad Frost, the Gophers will have to learn quickly; WCHA has few, if any, days off. And while Minnesota has steadily declined in the national rankings – a major measure of participation in NCAA tournaments – the Mavericks (5-1) are striving to get into the top 10.

It’s still early, very early, but last year the Gophers discovered how difficult it is to crack an eight-team pitch, neglected for the first time since 2007.

Minnesota came in fifth in the US ice hockey poll and sixth in the USCHO.com poll, down from fourth and fifth last week. Meanwhile, the Mavericks scored 5 votes after scoring an average of 5.4 goals per game, including a 7-0 defeat to Minnesota Duluth on October 1.

“There is no relief in WCHA,” Frost said. “You come and play for another team, which is really good. So we’ll have to play very well. ”

Teams will play the puck at 6:00 pm on Friday at the Ridder Arena before playing Saturday at 4:00 pm in Mankato.

The five Mavericks have scored at least three goals in six games, led by junior Kelsey King seven. Senior Brittin Fleming scored three goals among the team’s 12 points. They allow 3.2 games.

“We need to play our game,” Frost said. “We just need to do it a little more consistently. We played well hockey with some spurts. ”

In the first two games, the Gophers taking over Ohio split the streak in Duluth last weekend. They took a 2-0 lead on goals from sophomore Audrey Wetchington and freshman Ella Huber in a 3-1 win in the first game of the series and took a 1-0 lead before a pair of power-up goals thwarted them. Secondly. They fell 4-1 behind but rallied to level the score on two goals to Abigail Borin in the last three minutes – one with an extra striker – to force overtime before losing 5-4.

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Ohio equalized in the first leg with a power play, while the Bulldogs (2-2) took a 2-1 lead with a pair in Saturday’s overtime. In fact, the Gophers’ five goals were scored by the team from the penalty spot.

“We want to be on our toes and we want to be aggressive, and unfortunately, you get some penalties for being too aggressive, and we will definitely try to reduce them,” Frost said. “But (in Duluth) I think we’ve only given up two power plays in each game and we can live with a couple of penalties.”

Huber, a rookie from Chicago, has nine goals in four games, and Peyton Hemp (1-4-5) – Miss Hockey from Minnesota last season in Andover – tied with senior Taylor Heeze (2-3-5) for the team leader … Skylar Vetter, a newcomer from Lakeville, started one game on goal, losing 4-1 to the Buccays.

“We have to rely on (freshmen) a lot, and usually at the beginning of their careers – and at the beginning of the year – you shouldn’t rely on them too much,” Frost said. “But … they fit very well.”

The Gophers have four goalkeepers, this is the first figure for Frost. Makayla Pal, who played eight games last season with an average of 2.04 goals, has yet to play. And Olivia King, junior from Brainerd, played one game last season.

Senior Lauren Bench is 1-2 with 2.99 GAA this season and the competition seems open.

“We have a few (goalkeepers) that we think can play,” Frost said. “… So we will let this play out in the first half, and then we will make these decisions as we go.”

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