A lot has changed since the current women’s hockey seniors began to lace up their skates four years ago for the cardinal and black.
Coming off a season where the Huskies went 4-27-5, it was a step back and the second worse win total in Husky hockey history.
Enter Eric Rud. The Huskies immediately improved, doubling their previous seasons win total. Senior forward Lauren Hespenheide lead the team with three power play goals.
The next season lead to even more improvement with the Huskies going 13-18-4 and jumping up the WCHA standings from seventh to fifth.
Heading into the final home series of the seniors careers, Hespenheide and the rest of the seniors would be looking to leave the program in a much better condition than when they first enrolled to State. The senior defenseman attributes a culture change for the improvements the team has made since Rud was hired to lead the team, “The culture in general has changed a lot. We’ve been more competitive each season Coach Rud has been here. We’ve got to give him props for changing the attitude of the program.”
It was the young guns that would supply most of the firepower in game one against seventh place Bemidji State. Freshman Brooke Kudirka started the scoring with her first career goal for the Huskies in the first period. The Beavers would score to tie the game later in the first.
In the beginning of the second, it was another freshman, this one in the form of Hannah Potrykus that gave the Huskies the lead once again, this time to stay.
Just about three minutes later the Huskies would strike on the power play to extend their lead to 3-1 in the second period thanks to another freshman, Janna Haeg.
In the third Bemidji State would attempt a comeback, scoring a power play goal midway through the final frame, but it was freshman phenom Julia Tylke who would put the game out of reach regaining the Huskies’ two goal lead.
To add some insurance senior Payge Pena would find twine with the net empty to secure the Huskies’ 5-2 victory in game one over the Beavers.
On Saturday the Huskies would be going for their first sweep of the season.
After a scoreless first period the Beavers would finally break open the scoring midway through the frame. Six minutes later it was freshman forward Kayla Friesen that knotted things up at ones heading into the third.
Even the best teams need a little puck luck, but unfortunately for the Huskies the puck had other ideas. Beavers junior defenseman Alexis Joyce centered a pass that would bounce off Hespenheide’s skate which would end up being the game winning goal as the Huskies would go on to lose the back end of the series 3-1.
With the conclusion of her time at St. Cloud State approaching fast, Hespenheide had nothing but good things to say about her time with the team, “Overall I couldn’t ask for a better experience, pretty proud to be considered a Husky for the rest of my life.”
With Coach Rud at the helm and seniors such as Hespenheide to teach the young players of the team, one thing is for certain, this hockey program is on the up and up.