“We’re playing the Maverick way,” said freshman forward Taylor Otremba, who leads Minnesota State with five goals this season. “We’ve improved a lot and now we’re healthy.”
Despite being plunged into three straight top-five matchups to begin the season and dropping all six of those games, the Mavericks 7-1 since then. This has propelled the team to a 7-7-0 record, while also sitting fourth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
The Mavericks will be tested this weekend, however. The Mavs are back facing the No. 5 Minnesota Gophers, a team who beat Minnesota State 11-0 and 9-4 at the beginning of the season. The story is a bit different this time, though, with the Mavericks now having seven wins under their belts without senior defenseman Anna Wilgren and others who have missed time.
Injuries have riddled the Mavs this year, but the team has stayed strong in recent weeks. Otremba has been a significant contributor during the Mavericks’ hot streak, earning two WCHA honors down the stretch.
“We’ve had a lot of confidence that we’ve built that up, and we’ve been working more as a team,” Otremba said. “For this weekend, we’re going to have to be more aggressive and we’re going to have to be on them and not play scared. Try to control the game.”
As for what Otremba has done well to steady herself in the top five for scoring this season for the Mavericks, she credits her teammates.
“It definitely goes back to my linemates and us working together pretty well,” explained Otremba. “We’ve been making plays and we see each other more. We work the puck down pretty well. I’ve been in the right place at the right time and we’ve been hammering the puck at the net and getting the rebounds.”
Despite an outstanding 7-1 record in their last eight games, the Mavericks did not play a team inside the top 15 rankings during the stretch. Minnesota State will now go up against a Gopher team that scores the third-most goals per game in NCAA Division I women’s hockey.
When it comes to what the Gophers do well, they simply play good team hockey. That showed earlier this season when the Mavericks fell to the Gophers in both contests by a goal margin of 20-4. Being ranked No. 5 in the nation you would expect Minnesota to have players inside the top 10 in points, goals, or assists per game, but they do not.
Otremba said this time around the Mavs need to, “be on them right away and pressure them hard so they aren’t given a lot of time.” In turn, Otremba believes, “that will help us get the puck and turn it over to their end of the ice where we can capitalize.”
Last season, senior forward Kelsey King buried an overtime winner for the Mavericks to break a 53-game win streak the Gophers held since 2007. That goal came on a similar win streak to this year and could be a huge confidence boost to an already-hot Minnesota State team.
The University of Minnesota will be a lot for the Mavericks to handle this weekend, but with a strong winning streak to ride into the series, the Mavs will have a good chance at repeating last year’s success again.
The two teams will play a home-and-home split this series, playing a game in Minneapolis on Dec. 2 and a game in Mankato on Dec. 3. Game one will begin at 6 pm, while game two puck drop is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Header Photo: The Minnesota State Women’s hockey team play against the U of M at 2 p.m. Saturday at in game two of the home-and-home series. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
Write to Kole Buelow at Kole.Buelow@mnsu.edu