This Week in the WCHA Women’s League: Nov. 7, 2002

Although teams have lost players in the past due to commitments with their respective national teams, at no time will those absences be more apparent than this weekend as a dozen players from WCHA teams take part in the Four Nations Cup, featuring Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States, in Kitchener, Ontario.

For No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth and head coach Shannon Miller, it’s nothing new. But with seven of her players invited, Miller realized not everyone could go.

In the past, the Bulldogs have lost top scorers Erika Holst and Maria Rooth to Team Sweden, and Hanne Sikio to Team Finland along with other players. For some of their absences, Miller was able schedule games around the international events to lessen the impact of the missing players.

However, Nov. 10-11, 2000, the Bulldogs were without their top three scorers and goalie Tuula Puputti, heading into a two-game set at Minnesota. UMD took its lumps, dropping 4-0 and 8-0 decisions, but Miller took it in stride.

“It hasn’t really been a problem in the past,” she said. “We just live through it.”

Later that season, her team won the first NCAA championship in women’s hockey, returning to Mariucci Arena to claim the title.

Last season, just a month after getting key players back from the Olympics, UMD claimed its second title despite playing poorly at season’s end.

Although missing key players hurts the team because of their absence — not to mention the toll international travel can take — Miller said it has also helped over the last two seasons.

“It helps you because your third and fourth line players get ice time that they normally wouldn’t,” she said. “They play on the power play and penalty kill, they get more shifts and become better players.”

During last year’s Frozen Four, only one of UMD’s top four scorers, Holst, notched a goal during the tournament; Tricia Guest, who scored the championship-winning goal, had scored just 11 career goals in two seasons before giving the Bulldogs their second title.

This year, UMD faces a tough test in travelling to Ohio State without four players — Caroline Ouellette of Canada and Finns Sikio, Satu Kiipeli and Nora Tallus. Holst and Rooth took part in Sweden’s first two games but are travelling to Columbus for the weekend series with the Buckeyes. American Jenny Potter turned down an opportunity to play with Team USA to be in her Bulldog uniform.

The decision of who went and who stayed was made amongst the seven players.

"When I recruit, I want to attract the best players and, to do that, you have to let them represent their countries when they have the opportunity."

— Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson, on the impact of international tournaments.

“I explained the situation to them,” Miller said. “Each of them has a different relationship with their national team so I let them talk it through amongst themselves. They talked for about 45 minutes, came and asked me some questions, talked for another 15-20 minutes and made the decision.”

For No. 2 Minnesota, which hosts an improving Bemidji State squad at home this weekend, four players will be absent from the line, including the team’s top two scorers, Natalie Darwitz and Krissy Wendell, one of its top defensemen, Winny Brodt, and its second-leading scorer from last season, Kelly Stephens.

Losing players of their status, both Miller and Gopher head coach Laura Halldorson agree, is the price you pay for having them.

“When I recruit, I want to attract the best players and, to do that, you have to let them represent their countries when they have the opportunity,” Halldorson said. “This is one of those situations that come up when you have great players.

“We’ve talked about this as a league as far as trying to schedule around international events but, with this many players gone, it’s different than in the past. Some of the challenges we face are trying to figure out how to best handle situations like this.”

Besides the 10 players from the nation’s top two team who will be gone this weekend, No. 5 Wisconsin will be without defenseman Kerry Weiland and Carla MacLeod, the latter a Team Canada member who is out of action with a broken ankle. The Badgers struggled with the two defensemen out of the lineup against Minnesota Saturday, with Team USA member Weiland out due to illness, and they will try to snap a four-game winless streak at home against St. Cloud State, which will be without the services of forward Jossefin Pettersson, who will be playing with Team Sweden.

Ohio State will feel the loss of defenseman Emma Laaksonen, playing with Team Finland, as the team’s top defenseman and a key to their power play, which has struggled of late, converting just one of its last 23 opportunities.

The loss of key players can be magnified later in the season when selection are made for the NCAA championship. With just four teams invited, losses any time during the season can come back to haunt a squad.

Next year, the problem could be even greater. The Women’s Frozen Four, which was originally slated to be played at the New Haven Coliseum, would be during the Internaional Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship, a situation which could seriously affect several teams’ championship aspirations.

However, with the move of the Frozen Four from New Haven to Providence, dates have not been finalized and both Miller and Halldorson, whose teams were part of last year’s championship, are hoping the NCAA decides not to put coaches and players in the position of deciding where to play.

The idea behind pushing the Women’s Frozen Four back to April, the same weekend as the men’s Frozen Four, was in hopes of gaining more exposure. However, in that situation, women’s college hockey would be put on a national stage with the possibility of not having its best players to showcase.

In that situation, girls’ and women’s hockey as a whole will suffer.

Huskies Getting Healthy

St. Cloud State, returning to action after a much-needed week off, may have all of its players available for action for the first time this season when the Huskies take on Wisconsin.

Captain and top defenseman Kobi Kawamoto has not suited up this season to due a broken foot. Her return to the lineup is crucial for a team that has struggled to move the puck out of its own zone.

Four other players, including team goal-scoring leader Melanie Pudsey, have missed games due to injury and are expected to dress for the games against the Badgers.

“It doesn’t mean they’re all 100 percent,” head coach Jason Lesteberg said. “But it’s a step in the right direction.”

What Do I Need To Do For A Win?

Averaging nearly 42 shots against her, Minnesota State’s Shari Vogt has to wonder what else she can do to get a win. In 2-1 and 3-2 losses to No. 10 Mercyhurst over the weekend, she stopped 93 of 98 shots, including a 50-save effort in the series finale.

Mercyhurst coach Michael Sisti, whose team is 8-2-0 despite struggling offensively, was not displeased with his team’s effort against the Mavericks in claiming a pair of wins.

“We created a lot of opportunities,” he said. “Sometimes we just weren’t getting the bounces but [Vogt] made a lot of great saves.”

Vogt has faced 45 or more shots in three of seven starts this season, including a 69-shot barrage, in which she made a school-record 63 saves, in a 6-1 loss to Minnesota-Duluth.

Unfortunately for Vogt, nights like that are nothing new. She once recorded 93 saves in a 1-0 loss in high school, in a 45-minute game.

WCHA “House”Hold Hints

Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson became just the seventh coach in women’s college hockey to reach 200 career wins when the Gophers defeated Wisconsin 2-1 Saturday … She is now tied for sixth in wins and third among active coaches … She is the third female coach to reach the 200-win plateau, joining Brown’s Digit Murphy and former New Hampshire coach Karen Kay … Minnesota defenseman Ashley Allbrecht, the Ms. Hockey Award winner as the state’s top senior high school player last season, may return to the Gopher lineup this weekend. She has missed the last two weeks with an unspecified injury … Minnesota State has showed a modest offensive improvement. After being shut out eight times last season and 29 times over the last three seasons, the Mavericks have scored each in their first eight games this season.

Twelve of the WCHA’s top 15 scorers play for either Minnesota or Minnesota-Duluth. The two teams meet in Minneapolis, Nov. 30-Dec. 1 … UMD continued its impress special teams play over the weekend, going 7-for-15 on the power play and 10-for-10 on the penalty kill … The Bulldogs have not allowed a power-play goal in 50 opportunities this season … Wisconsin has played the strongest schedule in the country to date, facing ranked opponents in six of its first eight games … After hosting St. Cloud State this weekend, the Badgers will travel to 10th-ranked Mercyhurst … UMD assistant coach Shawna Davidson will be inducted into the Wildcat Athletic Council Hall of Fame Saturday when UNH holds its annual Hall of Fame banquet … A four-year letterwinner, she finished her career fourth in career scoring for UNH defensemen, and is currently sixth … She was named UNH’s Athlete of the Year as a sophomore in 1990 and competed with Team USA in three World Championships, winning silver in 1990, 1992 and 1994.

WCHA Awards

Offensive Player of the Week–Jenny Potter, Jr., F, Minnesota-Duluth
Defensive Player of the Week–Anik Coté, Jr., G, Bemidji State
Rookie of the Week–Natalie Darwitz, Fr., F, Minnesota

Coming Up

No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth at Ohio State (Friday-Saturday)

UMD is 12-1-2 in 15 meetings with Ohio State, including a 4-1-1 mark in games at OSU Arena … Maria Rooth recorded her 11th career hat trick in the Bulldogs’ 13-0 win over North Dakota last Friday … Erika Holst, Caroline Ouellette and Jenny Potter have each scored a point in UMD’s first eight games this season … Holst has multiple points in all eight games … The Bulldogs have been successful on 59 consecutive penalty kills … OSU’s Katie Frohreich was the last player to score a power-play goal against UMD, doing so in UMD’s 6-2 win, March 9, 2002, in the third-place game at the WCHA Final Five … The Buckeyes are 1-for-23 on the power play after going 7-for-12 in a season-opening series sweep at Minnesota State … OSU was 0-for-7 in last weekend’s series at Bemidji State … The Buckeyes have scored just four goals in their last four games … During that span they have allowed 11 goals and outshot opponents 123-109.

St. Cloud State at No. 5 Wisconsin (Friday-Saturday)

Wisconsin leads the all-time series 10-2-0 … The Badgers have won all six meetings in Madison … SCSU is being outshot by an average of 35-19 through seven games … For the first time in history, Wisconsin finds itself at the bottom of the conference standings after taking just one point in four games … Badger scoring leader Megan Hunter was held scoreless in both games last weekend at Minnesota, snapping a 16-game point-scoring streak … Four of the Badgers’ first six series this season are against opponents who have been ranked nationally … With a shortage of defensemen last weekend, Wisconsin’s all-time scoring leader, Kendra Antony, was temporarily moved from forward to the blue line.

North Dakota at Minnesota State (Friday-Saturday)

These two teams are meeting for the first time … Kearstin Solberg’s two-goal performance Sunday was the first by a Maverick since Amy Egli scored twice in a 3-2 overtime win at St. Cloud State, Jan. 26, 2002 … Solberg’s team-high five points through eight games puts her halfway to her freshman total of 10 points last season … MSU has allowed 15 power-play goals in eight games while going just 2-for-49 itself … The Mavericks have not scored on their last 16 power-play chances … UND goalie Margaret-Ann Hinkley faced 66 shots in Friday’s 13-0 loss at Minnesota-Duluth and Amber Hasbargen faced 51 Saturday in a 5-0 loss … Despite the Sioux giving up 18 goals last weekend, Sherrie White remained on the positive side of the plus/minus ledger with a +1 through five games.

Bemidji State at No. 2 Minnesota (Friday-Saturday)

Minnesota leads the all-time series 11-0-2 … The Gophers are 5-0-1 at home versus the Beavers … Three of the teams’ four meetings last year went to overtime … Bemidji State senior Lisa Peters played in her 100th career game over the weekend … BSU freshman goalie Jill Luebke made her collegiate debut Friday, stopping 28 of 29 shots in a 1-1 tie with Ohio State … Despite a 3-4-1 record, the Beavers have posted a goals against average of 1.96 with a .924 save percentage … BSU has successfully killed 18 consecutive power plays and is 14-for-14 on the penalty kill in its last three games … The Gophers have trailed their opponents for just seven seconds in 480 minutes of play … They’ve played with the lead for 376:05.