Gophers reach milestones in sweep of OSU

Goalie Noora Räty tied a wins record; Megan Bozek scored her 100th point.

Minnesota defender Milica McMillen

Ichigo Takikawa

Minnesota defender Milica McMillen

Nickalas Tabbert

The Gophers women’s hockey team swept Ohio State over the weekend in a physical battle between the top two teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

The No. 1 Gophers (8-0-0) extended their winning streak to 23 games against the Buckeyes with wins at Ridder Arena on Friday and Saturday. Minnesota hasn’t lost to Ohio State in five years.

On Friday, Minnesota won 7-2. After an evenly matched start to the game, Minnesota took advantage of scoring opportunities in transition and on the power play to pull away.

“We played very well tonight,” junior Amanda Kessel said Friday. “I thought they were a good team, and they have good systems. I think we capitalized a little bit more.”

Freshman Hannah Brandt provided the game’s first goal just past the halfway point of the period. She skated around Buckeyes goaltender Chelsea Knapp near the corner of the net to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead.

A few minutes later, Brandt had a breakaway opportunity, but this time she didn’t convert. Her shot deflected to the right of Knapp to Kessel, who scored on the putback to make it 2-0.

The first period marked a milestone for senior defensive star Megan Bozek. Her assist on Brandt’s goal made her the fourth defenseman in school history to record 100 career points.

“Scoring any points wearing [Minnesota’s] jersey is an honor,” she said. “We have a great team, and I’ve been a part of four great teams now, and I think that contributes to everyone’s success here. It’s really exciting to get my 100th point.”

The final minutes of the second period were rough for both teams, as each committed two penalties. Ohio State’s Kari Schmitt received a five-minute game misconduct penalty, and players from both teams were shoving after the whistle blew multiple times.

Ohio State’s Taylor Kuehl became only the second player to score against Minnesota this season on the ensuing power play. It was also the first power play goal allowed by the Gophers. She scored again in the third period.

Head coach Brad Frost said if it weren’t for the penalties, the first two periods may have been the best the team has played all season.

“We’ve got to be smarter,” Frost said, using examples of knocking down players and taking bad angles to set up Ohio State power plays.

“I think we’ve been down 5-on-3 four or five times this year, which is way too many.”

Bozek said games against Ohio State usually don’t see a lot of penalties. But a fired up, ready Ohio State team may have changed that.

“I think once we got a few goals in them, they started to get frustrated,” Bozek said. “We can’t retaliate and get penalties because we know what happens when we get penalties out there.”

Frost said Friday that Ohio State’s physical play is a great test for the team.

“I really liked how hard they pressured our defensemen on their forechecks,” he said. He added that his defense needed that pressure and responded well to it.

Saturday’s game saw 15 penalties, six by Minnesota.

Junior Kelly Terry opened the scoring early in the first period. With a delayed penalty against Ohio State called, the Gophers kept possession of the puck for nearly a minute until the junior found the back of the net.

Terry said the Buckeyes started well and were able to get a lot of shots on goal early.

After she scored, the momentum shifted to Minnesota, which was able to get pucks deep and win battles on the ice.

Minnesota added two more goals in the period from senior Becky Kortum and freshman Maryanne Menefee.

Frost changed his top-two lines for the weekend, which included pairing sophomore Rachael Bona and Kortum together.

“I think he just wanted to change something up because our lines got a little stagnant. Only [the] first line was producing,” Kortum said. “The trade was great.”

In the second, the Gophers added three more goals — two by Kessel and one by Bona. Kessel finished with a hat trick and now has 12 goals this season.

Ohio State head coach Nate Handrahan said playing a Gophers team with so many strengths left his team out of rhythm all weekend.

“From top to bottom, they don’t have a whole lot of holes,” he said. “They’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Räty ties wins record

Goalie Noora Räty recorded her 83rd career win Saturday, tying her with Jody Horak for the most in school history.

Ohio State had three more shots on goal — 20 — than it did in Friday’s 7-2 loss. But Räty stopped all of them. The Gophers had 40 shots on goal.

Räty said she didn’t focus on the record before or during the game because she had lost her focus in previous games in which the Gophers have scored multiple goals early.

“My focus this year is to play a whole 60 minutes,” she said.

In the locker room with her teammates after the game, Räty said the record belongs to everyone she has played with during her four years.

“The thing is, I can’t score goals,” she said. “It’s not just my record.”