After playing their first ten games of the season against opponents in their conference, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), the Minnesota State women’s hockey team is set to compete against Sacred Heart University this weekend.
The SHU Pioneers are an unfamiliar foe for the Mavericks, enough so that the teams have never played each other before. Despite this, the teams seem very evenly matched on paper. Sacred Heart brings a 3-5-1 record into the series, while Minnesota State currently sits at 3-7-0.
Senior forward Kelsey King talked briefly about the difficulty of preparing for out-of-conference opponents saying, “Film becomes very key to strategy when we play out-of-conference teams because we haven’t experienced them play. Self-film, breaking that down, watching them, and also not taking them for granted is super important. We don’t want to take anything for granted.”
“Regardless of what the stats may be or regardless of what conference they may be in, I think it’s important that we always remember that we need to take it seriously and play our style of hockey.”
After a difficult 0-6-0 start to the season, the Mavericks have certainly started to play their style of hockey in recent weeks. Losing star senior defenseman Anna Wilgren was a huge loss to the team, but freshmen have stepped up in Wilgren’s absence, helping the team win three of their last four games.
In the past two weeks, Minnesota State has supported two freshmen that have made WCHA honors for their efforts. Freshman defenseman Kianna Roeske and freshman forward Taylor Otremba both earned the honors, each scoring their first collegiate goals in the past two series.
King has been impressed with her fellow teammates earning honors but knows efforts as a team help players stand out as individuals.
“That was super exciting for us. Coach had said at practice that ‘When good things happen as a team, individual efforts can be recognized.’” King went on to say, “They really set the pace in Bemidji, which is cool to see because that’s what you need. When your veteran players are down on themselves, maybe not producing as people would think on the scoreboard, the freshmen have to step up.”
“It’s so important to see those freshmen thrive and to see them start to fit into their own and be just as big leaders on the team as the rest of us.”
Despite the Mavericks playing well recently, the team does not want to take the Pioneers lightly. As a WCHA team, Minnesota State feels like they have a target on their back when playing teams from out of conference.
Not only that, King was quick to say, “A few of them are probably from Minnesota. So it’s a time to not only prove themselves but also a time to play and have their families watching. That will undoubtedly have an impact on how they’ll perform. They’re not just gonna give up out there.”
King was right. Despite being a team from Connecticut, Sacred Heart brought in ten players from the Midwest to their 2022-23 roster, six of which are from Minnesota.
There is plenty of unknown for the upcoming contest, but one thing is certain: the first win against the other in program history. With nothing but improving their record on the line this weekend, both teams will be hungry for wins.
Puck drop is set for 3 p.m. and 1 p.m. on Nov. 4 and 5 at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in downtown Mankato.
Header Photo: MSU hockey play a two-game series at home against Sacred Heart on Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
Write to Kole Buelow at Kole.Buelow@mnsu.edu