Q&A with Gophers hockey coach Laura Halldorson

The Minnesota Gophers women's hockey team is off to a great start this season. The Gophers are 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation in the latest USCHO poll. GoldenSports.Net recently talked with the the leader of the team, coach Laura Halldorson.

Here is what she had to say:

GOLDENSPORTS: MSU-Mankato is off to a hot start, Minnesota-Duluth lost its first two games (to MSU-Manktao), but has rebounded, and like usual Wisconsin has rebounded from a slow start. What are your thoughts on the WCHA thus far?

HALLDORSON: There are surprises every year in the WCHA. It's great to see the increased parity in our league because then teams don't take anyone for granted. Every weekend is competitive and this season is no different.

GOLDENSPORTS: Natalie Darwitz and Krissy Wendell have been as good as advertised - but who else has stood out, who else is playing well? Any line combinations or freshmen that you can comment on that have surprised or met expectations and continued strong play?

HALLDORSON: Freshman Lyndsay Wall has been a force at defense for us. She is solid defensively and dangerous offensively. She's made a big impact already. Lyndsay is very effective on both ends of the ice and I especially enjoy watching her operate with our top power play unit.

Also, the line of Darwitz, Kelly Stephens and La Toya Clarke has been fun to watch. They move the puck well together and generate a lot of scoring chances.

GOLDENSPORTS: Do you think Jody Horak will finally get the recognition she deserves? It has always been (former Wisconsin goalie) Jackie MacMillan, and (MSU-Mankato goalie) Shari Vogt getting the recognition - and rightfully so, they are very talented - but Horak has to be ranked among the best in the WCHA and nation now doesn't she?

HALLDORSON: In the past Jody has received recognition within the WCHA, but now she's getting a little more attention nationally. As the top goalie for the U-22 U.S. team last summer, she showed a lot of other people what we have known all along – that she's one of the best college goaltenders in the country.

GOLDENSPORTS: The loss of Kelsey Bills obviously hurts (she will be out about another six-eight weeks with a fractured ankle) – what will you do to fill the void?

HALLDORSON: We've used Jerilyn Glenn in her position. We'll continue to evaluate our lineup and decide if we want to make any other adjustments.

GOLDENSPORTS: The Gophers play two games at Brown this weekend, your first real test outside the WCHA. You also play North Dakota, Mercyhurst and Dartmouth this season. How important are the non-conference games on the schedule when it comes to postseason seeding?

HALLDORSON: Our non-league schedule has played a very big role in our ranking at the end of each season. Playing and beating eastern teams has definitely helped us get to the national tournament in the past. It's also important, though, to play some of the newer programs to give them games too. Having a good mix of non-league opponents is ideal.

USCHO Division I Women's Ice Hockey Poll – Nov. 10

1. Minnesota (11) 6-0-0

2. Dartmouth (4) 3-0-0 138 2

3. Harvard 2-0-0 120 3

4. Minnesota-Duluth 5-3-0 101 4

5. St. Lawrence 4-3-1 81 5

6. Providence 1-1-2 75 6

7. Wisconsin 7-3-0 56 7

8. Mercyhurst 6-1-1 47 8

9. New Hampshire 3-2-1 40 9

10. Minnesota State 7-1-0 9 10

10. Princeton 3-1-0 9 NR

Others Receiving Votes: Northeastern 2, Ohio State 1

Matt Krumrie covers Gophers hockey for GoldenSports.Net. He can be reached at Gopherhockeyinsider@yahoo.com

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