In front of past Minnesota women’s hockey greats, the Gophers made No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth look like an after-thought.
Minnesota (5-2-1, 3-2-1 WCHA) defeated the Bulldogs 3-1 Friday night and 5-1 Saturday.
what: Women’s Hockey
when: 2 p.m., Friday
where: Madison, Wis.
The Gophers controlled both games, never trailing UMD (5-2-1, 4-2-0 WCHA) and scoring three shorthanded goals on the weekend.
“We were able to come out here and play 120 minutes of really solid hockey,” head coach Brad Frost said.
Early in Friday night’s game it seemed as if the weekend was going to be filled with two evenly matched teams, but that lasted only briefly.
The fast-paced first period displayed the talent of both teams’ defenses. Bulldogs sophomore goalie Kim Martin thwarted away multiple shots from the Gophers. Martin had 12 saves in the first period.
Minnesota was not to be outdone as they utilized solid team defense to force numerous turnovers by UMD. When the Bulldogs did get their few opportunities to put shots on net, freshman Jenny Lura ended any thoughts of glory by saving eight shots.
The Gophers opened the scoring in the second period when senior center Bobbi Ross found the net. The goal was a shorthanded one, which would be a weapon used by the Gophers all weekend.
“On our penalty kill, it is never really our main goal to get offensive chances, especially against a team like Duluth, but we’ll take what they give us,” Ross said.
What was a huge momentum boost for Minnesota was short lived. Less than a minute later UMD answered back with a goal of its own.
Needing nothing fancy, sophomore forward Emmanuelle Blais knotted the game up with a blast from the top of the Gophers’ zone.
Minnesota went ahead 2-1 when junior defense Rachael Drazan got some sweet revenge by scoring a goal against her former team.
Drazan’s goal would prove to be the game-winner, but it would take another whole period of solid Minnesota play to get that victory.
The Bulldogs had four penalties in the third period, which led to their downfall. The penalties gave the Gophers multiple power-play opportunities, which only caused crucial minutes to drip off the clock as Minnesota controlled the puck.
UMD put together one last desperate push to tie the game, but Minnesota cleared the puck four times in the final two minutes of play to prevent the Bulldogs from scoring. The Gophers sealed the deal when Ross scored another shorthanded goal in the final minute of regulation.
Saturday’s affair was another display of dominate Gophers hockey.
Shorthanded goals had been common place in the first game and Minnesota would continue that trend by opening up the scoring in the game as senior forward Erica McKenzie’s goal put Minnesota on top.
McKenzie was in the right place at the right time when a puck was cleared during the power play. The puck slid right to her and she completed the breakaway by beating Martin to give the Gophers the early 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs responded by rushing the net with a furious string of shot attempts, but came up empty.
The feat of preventing the Bulldogs from scoring was even more impressive for Minnesota because it came when UMD had a two-man advantage.
This string of shots would be the only serious threat the Bulldogs would have in preventing the Gophers from completing the series sweep.
“I think the tide really turned when we killed off that 5-on-3,” Frost said.
Minnesota continued their dominance when McKenzie and sophomore forward Brittany Francis each scored goals to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead.
Minnesota scored another unanswered goal as Ross found the net again. She was assisted by McKenzie.
It would be the third time in the game in which McKenzie and Ross hooked up to score a goal for the Gophers.
“So far me and Bobbi are playing well together and its showing on the scoreboard,” McKenzie said.
The scoring for Minnesota was capped off when sophomore forward Kelli Blankenship knocked in a rebound to give the Gophers a commanding 5-0 lead in the second period.
A meaningless power-play goal was scored by UMD in the third period.
“Whenever the Gophers play Duluth, we come ready to play and that was the case tonight (Saturday),” McKenzie said.