Depleted UMD roster means more defined roles: Niagara at UMD
What: Nonconference women's hockey series When: 3:05 p.m. today and Sunday Where: DECC (5,333) Records: Niagara 5-11-4, UMD 10-7-1 Radio: WGEE 970 AM today, KDAL 610 AM Sunday. Series: These teams last met in the NCAA semifinals in 2001-02. UMD w...
What: Nonconference women's hockey series
When: 3:05 p.m. today and Sunday
Where: DECC (5,333)
Records: Niagara 5-11-4, UMD 10-7-1
Radio: WGEE 970 AM today, KDAL 610 AM Sunday.
Series: These teams last met in the NCAA semifinals in 2001-02. UMD won 3-2 and went on to win the title.
Tawni Mattila felt the groove in Minnesota Duluth's final game of the first half of the women's hockey season.
The sophomore forward scored two goals as the Bulldogs routed Ohio State 9-1, a retaliatory trouncing that followed the Buckeyes' 3-0 win in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series opener.
"I think I definitely was on my toes and I felt really prepared for that game," Mattila said. "I guess we know, as a team, how good we can be. It's hard when you lose games like [Ohio's 3-0 win]. It's a motivation, a push. I think that last game [UMD's 9-1 win], for our whole team, it was huge. We knew it was our time to shine. We really needed to step it up as a team. We needed to remember we are good, we can beat anyone we play."
Now, with the Bulldogs facing a spate of injuries going into the second half of the season, Mattila is targeted as one player who needs to nourish the thing she had going on Dec. 9. The Duluth Central graduate has three goals, five assists this season and had a 14-point season as a freshman.
The No. 8 Bulldogs (10-7-1) host Niagara (5-11-4) at 3:05 p.m. today and Sunday at the DECC. UMD resumes conference play Jan. 13-14 against St. Cloud State.
UMD is missing three key freshmen: forward Elin Holmlov and goalie Kim Martin and Heidi Pelttari, a defenseman who was slated to begin play at the start of the second half. Senior forward Michaela Lanzl is playing with the German National Team and UMD coach Shannon Miller said Wednesday that senior Juliane Jubinville and junior Samantha Hough's injuries have them sidelined for the rest of the season.
With a few other recovering players skating at about 75 percent, maintaining the flow from their last victory could be tricky -- if not just exhausting. UMD is down to about seven healthy forwards, seven defenders and two goalies.
UMD first-line center Noemie Marin is confident that Mattila is up to the task.
"She's really, really an all-around player. She definitely has good hands, good speed, can shoot the puck," Marin said. "As soon as she came in [freshman year] she had leadership skills already. I don't see her as a sophomore. I see her as a junior. She's really mature. There is no doubt she will do the job that coach asks her."
Mattila, who always skates a regular shift, is expected to skate with Erin Olson and Jessica Hawkins, sophomores who have suited up for the entire season but are usually just spotted into the lineup throughout the game. And with the depleted roster, this line's role has become more defined.
"It's the third line that makes the difference," Mattila said. "Keeping everyone motivated and on top of things is a huge part of it. Being the line that fights in the corners and things like that. Does the dirty work, makes a big difference in the game. ... We're going to have to grind and fight in the corners. Be the hard working line. The line that gets the puck over the red line and in deep and forechecks."
Miller said typically the third line is asked to finish the game without allowing a goal and hopefully contributing one. Scoring is no longer optional.
"Now our third line needs to score," Miller said.
And she is looking to Mattila to lead the rush.
"I'm happy with Tawni," Miller said. "She's smart, moves the puck well, she's a good leader. She's very likeable. As she gets in better shape, she'll be a [heck] of a player."