This Week in the WCHA Women’s League: Feb. 13, 2003

There are certainly a lot of things to talk about when it comes to this weekend’s series between No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth and No. 3 Minnesota.

The rivalry between the two schools, in a short four seasons, has become one of the best and most intense in women’s college hockey.

The fact that they are playing this weekend at Mars-Lakeview Arena, an arena with a listed capacity of 1,200, will bring the fans who get into the building right on top of the ice.

Both teams have also been shuffling lineups recently. UMD will have an advantage in that it will have its full complement of players available for the first time in three weeks. The Gophers, on the other hand, are missing two players, including freshman sensation Krissy Wendell.

"The way I look at it, the regular-season title is up for grabs and the winner puts themselves in a better situations heading into the WCHA playoffs."

— UMD head coach Shannon Miller, on this weekend’s UM-UMD series.

Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson and her Bulldog counterpart, Shannon Miller, both acknowledged that there’s a little extra incentive when the teams play for the North Star Trophy.

“Everybody gets fired up,” Halldorson said. “We get excited to play them and I’m sure they’re excited to play us. There’s no question that anytime we play Duluth it’s a big series and it’s something we look forward to all year. There are a lot of ramifications involved and everyone knows there’s a lot riding on these games.”

“They love it,” Miller said of her team’s view of the matchup. “When you play a team that’s going to push you to the max, it’s what you train for and it’s why you are here.

“The way I look at it, the regular-season title is up for grabs and the winner puts themselves in a better situations heading into the WCHA playoffs.”

UMD holds a six-point lead in the race for the league’s regular-season championship. However, Minnesota has four points in hand. Assuming both teams win out after this weekend, the Gophers need three points this weekend to have a shot at the title and four points, with the Bulldogs already having beaten them twice, to have a shot at the number-one seed in the WCHA Final Five.

For Minnesota, the loss of Wendell, the league’s third-leading scorer, from the lineup could prove to be costly to the Gophers.

In the waning moments of Saturday’s 2-1 win over Ohio State, shortly after she scored the game-winning goal with 1:25 to play in the game, Wendell suffered a fractured clavicle which will prevent her from playing for at least the duration of the regular season and probably longer.

Her absence, along with that of forward Kristy Oonincx, suspended indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team,” leaves Minnesota with just 10 forwards, including four of its usual six on the team’s top two lines.

“We shuffled things around in practice,” Halldorson said on Tuesday. “We don’t have anything set and we may be changing things up to and during this weekend’s games.”

Although her team has battled through injuries and other player absences this season, Miller sympathizes with the Gophers’ predicament.

“I’m disappointed those players aren’t in the lineup,” she said. “It’s unfortunate anytime a player is out, whether or not it’s a marquee player. We want to play their best so I do feel bad.

“At the same time, other players will rally around and step up. It’s an opportunity for someone to fill the void and that’s what I’m expecting this weekend.”

The Gophers faced a similar situation three years ago when heading into Duluth. Defensemen Winny Brodt and Courtney Kennedy were both absent from the lineup due to injuries but Halldorson moved two of her top three scoring forwards, Ronda Curtin and Ambria Thomas, back on defense and the team managed a win and a tie.

Although Minnesota will shuffle its lineup, likely throughout the week, with freshman defenseman Chelsey Brodt moving to forward, UMD is starting over after having four players gone this past weekend and three others the week before.

“It feels good to have everyone here and healthy,” Miller said. “But it’s a slow process. There are so many things, as coaches, that we want to throw at them but we’re really starting over with a lot of things, putting together lines and power-play units again, that we need to take care of the basics first.”

Both coaches also realize that the intimate setting in which their teams will be playing will have an affect on the games.

“People will need to get there early,” Halldorson said. “We wish there were a few more seats but it should create an exciting environment.”

Miller echoed those sentiments.

“It will be a great atmosphere. It should be packed and loud. I think we’ll have a little bit of an advantage in that it will be our home crowd right on top of the ice.”

On the ice, the key will likely be the Minnesota defense against the UMD forwards. When the Bulldogs swept the Gophers earlier this season, much of the reason was because the league leaders were able to position themselves in front of the Minnesota net.

Jody Horak, who has become the Gophers’ number-one goalie, has a tendency to give up rebounds which her defense often handles. However, the size and strength advantage that the Bulldogs forwards have makes that a difficult task, a fact which was borne out in the teams’ earlier meeting.

Nevertheless, adversity often brings out the best in people and the Gophers have shown that to be the truth in the past. They will hope that it’s true again this weekend.

Oonincx’s Future As A Gopher Uncertain

In discussing, after Friday’s 5-3 win over Ohio State, the effect of the absence of junior forward La Toya Clarke, who was playing with Canada’s Under-22 team in Germany, and sophomore forward Kristy Oonincx, Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson said, “We had to put together some different lines this week so combinations were different and there was an adjustment period for that.

“So in a way, for our first game with that lineup it wasn’t too bad, but we look forward to getting La Toya back next weekend.”

One could infer from that statement that Oonincx wouldn’t be back in the lineup anytime soon.

Halldorson would make no other statement at the time regarding the situation and little has changed this week.

“It’s a situation that we’ve left open-ended,” she said. “I can’t really predict when more information will be available.”

Other sources report that Oonincx, who had 14 goals and 25 points in 24 games, has played her last game in a Gopher uniform. The Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, native may look to play elsewhere next season.

Unlike men’s hockey, NCAA rules for Division I women’s hockey allow players to transfer once during their career and be eligible to play immediately, but the WCHA requires players to sit out one season if transferring within the conference.

It was not known if she has requested permission from Minnesota to talk to other schools.

Lammé Back In Buckeye Lineup, Laaksonen Still Out

After receiving a game misconduct in a 5-2 loss to UMD Jan. 31, Ohio State freshman goalie Natalie Lammé was suspended indefinitely by head coach Jackie Barto.

Lammé, who received the penalty for spitting on an opposing player, did not make the Buckeyes’ trip to Minnesota last weekend, which led to Barto having to dress junior Melissa Glaser so the team would have a backup goalie on the bench, which is required by NCAA rules.

Glaser, who has not played this season, has begun skating with the team but is still going through rehabilitation after knee surgery in the fall, the second time she’s had surgery on a knee.

As for Lammé’s situation, Barto said she’s been reinstated.

“She’s back on the ice with the team. She had some off-ice responsibilities and she’s done everything we asked her to do.”

Barto would not specifically say whether or not she would play the Hibbing, Minn., native this weekend but said the status of the goalies has returned to where it was, when Lammé was splitting time with senior April Stojak.

As for junior defenseman Emma Laaksonen, her status for this weekend’s home series with Minnesota State is doubtful. She was absent from the OSU lineup when the Buckeyes met UMD while playing with Team Finland in an exhibition series with Sweden. In that series, she broke a finger which kept the left-shooting blueliner out of the lineup at Minnesota.

“We’re taking it day-to-day right now,” Barto said. “It’s her bottom (left) hand and, right now, her difficulties are with shooting and passing the puck.”

Laaksonen had five points, while quarterbacking a power play that was 7-for-12, when OSU opened the season with 6-1 and 3-1 victories over Minnesota State. Three points behind Bemidji State for fourth in the league standings, with four points in hand over a Beaver squad which is playing a nonconference series this weekend, the Buckeyes have an important series against the Mavericks at hand.

“We realize the next six games are very important for us,” Barto said. “We’re not looking past what’s on tap for Friday with Mankato. They’re a much-improved team and I’m impressed with their work ethic and their desire on the ice.”

WCHA “House”Hold Hints

After taking to the road last weekend for the first time since Dec. 14, Bemidji State returns home this weekend for a nonconference series with Findlay … The Beavers, who will play three straight games at home before ending the season with a trio of road games, are in the midst of a season-long four-game losing streak … Minnesota senior defenseman Winny Brodt had a five-game goal-scoring streak snapped in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Ohio State … During the team’s current five-game winning streak, she has either scored or assisted the game-winning goal four times … Brodt has scored a point in seven straight games … With four games remaining in the regular year, UMD senior forward Erika Holst is 12 points shy of becoming the fourth Bulldog to reach 200 career points this season … Including playoffs, Holst is likely to have eight games in which to collect those 12 points …

Bulldog junior forward Jenny Potter set a school record in Friday’s 10-3 win by scoring goals 25 seconds apart … Minnesota State’s sweep of Findlay gave it a 7-3-0 nonconference record for the season, the Mavericks’ best mark in four seasons in the WCHA … Senior forward Tristin Stephenson scored her school-record 61st career point in Saturday’s 1-0 win … Ohio State begins a six-game homestand this weekend to end the regular season … The Buckeyes have been on the road for their last five games … St. Cloud State concludes its home schedule for 2002-03 this weekend with a pair of matinee games, Friday and Saturday, versus No. 7 Wisconsin … The Badgers clinched a spot in the WCHA Final Five by sweeping Bemidji State this past weekend … Freshman forward Nikki Burrish scored four points in the series, returning to the Badger lineup for the first since Nov. 9.

WCHA Awards

Offensive Player of the Week–Sis Paulsen, Sr., D, Wisconsin
Defensive Player of the Week–Lindsay McCulloch, So., D, Minnesota State
Rookie of the Week–Caroline Ouellette, Fr., F, Minnesota-Duluth

Coming Up

No. 3 Minnesota at No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth (Friday-Saturday)

UMD leads the all-time series 7-6-3 after sweeping Minnesota in Minneapolis earlier this season … All three ties in the series have come in Duluth, where the Bulldogs own a 2-1-3 record versus the Gophers … The teams are meeting at their third venue in four seasons in Duluth, having previously played four games at the DECC and two games at Pioneer Hall … UMD freshman forward Caroline Ouellette scored five goals and nine points in the Bulldogs’ sweep at St. Cloud State … She recorded her third hat trick and six-point game of the season Friday … She has scored multiple points in her last seven games, tallying 21 points during that stretch … UMD is 10-for-23 on the power play in its last four games … The Bulldogs have had 42 power-play opportunities in their last six games … Minnesota and UMD rank first and second nationally in shorthanded goals … The Gophers have 11 on the season, while allowing just 14 power-play goals … The Bulldogs have 10 shorthanded goals while allowing 13 power-play tallies … Every player on both team, with the exception of backup goalies, has scored a point this season.

No. 7 Wisconsin at St. Cloud State (Friday-Saturday)

Wisconsin is 11-3-0 all-time against St. Cloud State … The Badgers own a 4-2-0 record at the National Hockey Center … The two teams split their series earlier this season in Madison … The Huskies’ 5-3 win was their first in eight tries in Madison … UW senior Sis Paulsen became the first defenseman this season to earn WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors when she was honored this week … She has nine points in her last four games … This weekend will mark the first time this season that the Badgers will have its full roster available … SCSU freshman forward Ashley Stewart leads team rookies with 17 points, including a team-high nine goals … Husky junior defenseman Leanne Perrin tallied her first points of the season Saturday, assisting on two of SCSU’s three third-period goals.

Minnesota State at Ohio State (Friday-Saturday)

Ohio State has never lost to Minnesota State, posting a 13-0-1 record against the Mavericks … The Buckeyes are a perfect 6-0-0 against MSU in Columbus … OSU was 7-for-12 on the power play when the two teams met in Mankato to open the 2002-03 campaign … Ohio State has scored just 15 goals in its last nine games … The Buckeyes need four points in their final six games to clinch a spot in the WCHA Final Five … The Mavericks have nearly doubled their point production from last season … A year ago, MSU tallied 84 points … The Mavericks have 160 points this season … They’ve scored 65 goals this season, compared to 38 last season … Friday’s nine-goal outburst was MSU’s best offensive output since a 12-0 win at Bemidji State, Feb. 26, 1999 … The Mavericks’ three power-play goals in the game were a season high.

Findlay at Bemidji State (Friday-Saturday)

Bemidji State is 3-1-1 all-time versus Findlay … The Oilers, however, were 6-2 winners in the teams’ only meeting in Bemidji, Nov. 12, 2000 … The Beavers are 0-for-11 on the power play during their four-game losing streak and have allowed 24 goals during that time … BSU senior center Amber Fryklund has five points in her last three games … Friday’s 9-1 loss to Minnesota State was Findlay’s worst loss of the season … The Oilers are 0-4-0 against WCHA opponents this season … Findlay’s current five-game losing streak is its longest of the season … The Oilers are 2-for-23 on the power play during that stretch.