Bulldogs women's hockey team will be unleashed
Shannon Miller believes players possessing offensive creativity should enjoy a lot of freedom. The Minnesota Duluth women's hockey coach saw the goal-scoring ingenuity that warrants liberty in 2002-03, and her laissez faire coaching produced a 31...
Shannon Miller believes players possessing offensive creativity should enjoy a lot of freedom.
The Minnesota Duluth women's hockey coach saw the goal-scoring ingenuity that warrants liberty in 2002-03, and her laissez faire coaching produced a 31-3-2 season and a third-straight national championship.
Miller sees a similar team this season.
"We are going to put in fewer [offensive] systems and let them freelance more," said Miller, beginning her ninth season as coach. "We have enough talent to do that. Our forwards are creative and offensively gifted. The worst thing I can do at this point is get in the way."
UMD's top line includes three Europeans -- freshman Iya Gavrilova of Russia and sophomores Saara Tuominen of Finland and Elin Holmlov of Sweden.
"Those three have been magical so far," Miller said. "They have gelled fantastically."
Tuominen, who had 12 goals and 28 assists last season, will be the catalyst and safety net.
"[Tuominen] isn't a flashy player," Miller said. "She is going to come out and set up [Gavrilova and Holmlov]. Defensively, Tuominen is very strong and will allow those other two to be very offensive and take risks."
While UMD's first line hasn't played in a game together, the players are used to the European style that emphasizes puck movement.
"It's really easy to communicate on ice because we play the same style," Tuominen said. "We like to share the puck and all of us see the ice well."
The Bulldogs will have to replace 46 percent of their goal scoring from last season with the departures of Noemie Marin, Jessica Koizumi and Michaela Lanzl. Marin and Koizumi graduated, while Lanzl ran out of eligibility.
The Bulldogs (24-11-4 in 2006-07) lost to Wisconsin 4-1 in the NCAA Division I national championship game. UMD's lone senior is forward Karine Demeule
"We had a great team last year and we will have a great team this year," said Holmlov, who had 26 points last season. "We're younger, but we have more freedom."
Miller will put the scorers in advantageous positions.
"We're going to use four attackers a lot," Miller said. "That is risky defensively because you can get 2-on-1 against you, but when we have strong goaltending, I'd like to take risks to score goals."
Sophomore goalie Kim Martin is the top goalie for the Bulldogs, who are No. 5 in the USCHO.com poll and picked to finish second to Wisconsin in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Last season, Martin had a 1.58 goals-against average while splitting time with Riita Schaublin. This year, Boston College transfer and Cloquet native Johanna Ellison will spell Martin in net.
Injury Trend remains
The Bulldogs dealt with multiple injuries last season and the trend has continued this year.
"Last year, we had a ton of injuries," Miller said. "It was ridiculous. We were joking that after an injury-ridden season like that 'it's never going to happen like that again.' Well, it has."
The Bulldogs started practice Sept. 24 with 14 forwards. Now they have 11.
Second-line winger Emmanuelle Blais is out three-to-four weeks with a high ankle sprain and bone bruise.
Forward Samantha Hough has suffered a setback in her recovery from knee surgery, and freshman Chantal Larocque quit the team Sept. 28.
ANDY GREDER covers UMD women's hockey for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5315 or by e-mail at email@example.com .