By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
If there was a test for the Minnesota State women’s hockey team Saturday afternoon, it came just 33 seconds into the game.
Senior, top-line center and leading goal scorer Lauren Smith was kicked out of the game for a checking-from-behind penalty, and the Mavericks had to find out just what kind of depth they had of front.
“That’s not the way you envision starting a hockey game,” coach Eric Means said, “especially because (Smith’s) always got energy.”
The Mavericks found players to pick up the slack, though, as junior Melissa Klippenstein had a three-point game and sophomore transfer Casey Hirsch scored two goals in the 4-1 nonconference victory over Lindenwood at All Seasons Arena.
“We’re not a team of All-Americans,” Means said. “We’re a team where everybody’s got to chip in.”
Klippenstein started the game as the fourth-line center, playing between Hirsch and another transfer, Krystal Baumann. Both Minnesota natives, Hirsch played at Syracuse last season and while Baumann played at Vermont.
“Both of them are very good players,” Klippenstein said. “(Hirsch) stepped up with a couple goals. She’s made a big improvement in practice.”
The Mavericks led 1-0 after one period, as Tracy McCann scored her fourth goal of the season on the power play. Kathleen Rogan had her first of two assists, and Klippenstein also assisted.
A little more than three minutes into the second period, Hirsch scored her first MSU goal, putting back the rebound of a Baumann shot after another assist by Klippenstein.
Lindenwood’s Lyndsay Kirkham cut MSU’s lead in half with a power-play goal at 6:35 of the second.
Klippenstein’s power-play goal on a scramble in front of goalie Nicole Hensley at 2:42 of the third made it 3-1, and Hirsch all but sealed the win when she scored with 6:32 to play.
“I had a two-point game my freshman year,” said Klippenstein, who entered the game with just six points in 69 career games. “Coach has talked about me having to step up and make things happen.”
The Mavericks outshot the Lions 46-31. MSU goalie Danielle Butters stopped 30 shots, continuing her strong start to the season. Butters, a junior, has played in all six games and has a .938 save percentage. Her save on a breakaway late in the second period preserved Minnesota State’s 2-1 lead heading into intermission.
“She’s been great,” Means said. “We haven’t had a six-game stretch like this from a goaltender since I’ve been here.”
Minnesota State (3-2-1) will return to WCHA action on Friday when it hosts Minnesota Duluth.