Defense often wins championships, but the No. 2 Minnesota women’s hockey team may need a little more if it hopes to play late in the season.
The Gophers are 2-1-1 in their past four games despite allowing only one goal.
The lone score came against now-No. 6 Harvard last weekend, but Minnesota failed to score a goal in either game en route to a 1-0 loss and a scoreless tie.
Two weekends ago in Minneapolis, the Gophers shut down No. 3 Clarkson in decisive fashion by a combined score of 6-0.
Backed by the strong play of freshman goalie Noora Räty, whose .9203 goals against average is the best in the nation, the Minnesota defense has given the Gophers plenty of chances to win during the nonconference stretch.
“[Minnesota head coach Brad Frost] always keeps saying, ‘we’re not going to win any games if we don’t score,’ ” sophomore defender Anne Schleper said. “Keeping their team to one or two goals a game is definitely a huge part.”
The zeroes on the scoreboard last weekend were a strange sight for the Gophers, a team that is second in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in scoring at 3.28 goals a game.
Despite the offensive struggles last weekend, Frost doesn’t plan on making any adjustments.
“It’s one of those things that happens,” Frost said. “It hasn’t happened to us a whole lot.”
The Gophers will look to light the lamp a bit more often this weekend at North Dakota (3-8-3), who is at the bottom of the WCHA.
Both the Gophers and the Sioux were in the headlines over the summer, as Minnesota’s top two scorers last year, freshmen Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux opted to transfer to North Dakota. The twins are members of the U.S. National Team this year a nd will not meet their former team this weekend.
The unexpected move, along with the departure of senior Gigi Marvin, left Frost and the team wondering who would put the puck in the net in 2009-10.
Junior Emily West and sophomore Sarah Erickson have helped fill the void. Both are tied for third in the nation in goals at 12.
Under third-year coach Brian Idalski, the Sioux finished 13-19-4 overall a season ago, the best finish in their history.
“We know that when we go up there, it’s always a battle,” Frost said. “We’re going to have to get up there and hopefully put the puck in the net a lot more than we did this past weekend.”
While North Dakota may not be as strong as the squads the Gophers have faced recently, junior Terra Rasmussen said there are no weekends off in the WCHA.
“I think all teams get pumped to play [the] U of M,” Rasmussen said. “So if we come off like we are just going to go out there and win, we’ll be unpleasantly surprised.”
The Sioux have already knocked off two of the WCHA’s best this year in No. 7 Wisconsin and Ohio State.
The Gophers (13-3-2) are at the top of the WCHA with 20 points and will look to end the first half of their season on a high note.
“It’s a stressful time for … all student-athletes getting ready for finals,” Frost said. “We just have to pull up our bootstraps and get out there and play.”
Both games are slated for 2:07 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday in Grand Forks, N.D.
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