Roadtrip heads to Duluth

Women’s hockey team ready to face off against Bulldogs in weekend series.

Sophomore forward Meghan Dufault skates against the University of Wisconsin earlier this season. File photo.

The UND women’s hockey team will hit the road to face Duluth this weekend after spending the last few weekends at home.

“It’ll be interesting,” UND coach Brian Idalski said. “We’re both missing players — them missing a couple of high-end D, and us missing a couple of high-end forwards. How we adjust to that should be a pretty interesting story line this weekend.

“There are big points on the table overall, so it should be a huge weekend.”

While freshman and sophomore players are awarded situations to improve throughout the season, the situation this year presents a different case.

With the Olympics starting up, the team is beginning to focus on the remainder of the season and how it will rearrange its structure until the return of a handful of players from Sochi.

Sophomore forward Shannon Kaiser is one player that has stepped up and played on a higher line than where she started the season with the lineup adjustment.

“For all of our younger players, with our top leaders gone, it’s a good opportunity for everybody to step up and take the roles that they had before and work harder to show what we have as younger players,” Kaiser said.

Despite losing some of the team’s players, the rest of the team’s focus is far from what it’s lost.

Instead, the team has been focusing on what it has to do to keep getting better and what it has to do to win the next game.

“First and foremost, being in the Olympics is the pinnacle of what they do,” Idalski said. “This is why they play, and that life experience — full of the opportunities — are pretty precious, and we’re happy to have helped them developing.”

The team has taken a different approach to losing the players for a period of time.

Rather than dwelling on missing talent, the team is focused on utilizing the talent that still remains within the lineup.

“Mindset wise, we take this as an opportunity to push the pace with some kids in a playoff stretch — that you know might not get this opportunity for another year or so development wise,” Idalski said. “So to have (Becca) Kohler have to lead our club, and missing (Meghan Dufault) right now — the biggest thing isn’t necessarily what she brings on the ice.

“She’s a great player for us, and that’ll obviously help, but it’s the leadership of her having to carry the team through the stretch is what she’s missing development wise,” Idalski said. “That we’re a little sad about.”

Even as the newer players to the team, the freshmen are expected to step up big in key situations.

“(Amy) Menke and (Kayla) Gardner and (Lisa) Marvin and all our other freshmen — they’ve got to make plays,” Idalski said. “This is something that is going to make them better for the playoffs this year, and also next year and the year after.

“You can’t put a price tag on that kind of playoff type experience. In the stretch run, we have to make plays. (There are) tight games, so that’s what I’m most excited about teaching. Going through right now is just having those kids have to play way above what they would normally be expected to do right now, and I know, long term, that’s a huge plus for us.”

UND will travel to Duluth this weekend to take on the Bulldogs. The puck is set to drop Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 3:07 p.m.

Mariah Holland is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].