Gophers sweep ranked opponent

The team outscored No. 9 North Dakota 10-2 in the two victories over the weekend.

by Ben Gotz and Matt Greenstein

After briefly falling to No. 2 in the rankings, the Gophers have reclaimed the top spot in college hockey. And they showed this weekend why they never should have moved.

After defeating No. 9 North Dakota 5-2 on Friday, the No. 1 Gophers (7-0-1, 5-0-1 WCHA) returned Saturday afternoon and won in a dominating fashion.

The Gophers shut out North Dakota on just seven shots, and they recorded 51 shots of their own on their way to a 5-0 victory.

“[It was] probably the best 60 minutes of hockey that we’ve maybe played in a long, long time,” head coach Brad Frost said after the game. “And I’m talking years.”

Frost said the team emphasized playing better in the second game of the series this weekend, and his players showed that they got the message.

Junior forward Hannah Brandt put the Gophers ahead early in the first period, and her team never looked back.

Brandt scored her eighth and ninth goals of the season in the game, one day after her head coach told her to try to throw more pucks at the net.

“She was successful [Friday] night with the assist, but she had a few that she could have shot,” Frost said after the second game.

Brandt’s linemate Maryanne Menefee was also active in the victory. She scored her first two goals of the season, both of which were assisted by Brandt.

Brandt and Menefee said the chemistry they have developed on the team’s top line has been a big part of their success.

“I think the biggest thing with us is we just see each other very well on the ice,” Brandt said. “You hardly have to look sometimes. It’s helpful.”

The game Friday night was much more competitive. While the final score was 5-2, the Gophers’ total was padded by two late empty-net goals.

“[It was] obviously not a 5-2 game. The score can be a bit misleading, but [we’re] happy with the three points,” Frost said Friday.

North Dakota got on the board first, taking the lead less than three minutes into the game.

The Gophers responded with three unanswered goals over the next three periods before sealing the victory with the empty-netters.

The first game between the two teams was physical. After the game, junior defenseman Milica McMillen said the team needed to keep playing hard to beat such a physical team.

“I think we just [have to] battle,” McMillen said. “We [have to] match their speed and maybe try and go a little bit harder. And I think we can.”

McMillen’s teammates backed up her words Saturday afternoon, as the Gophers outskated North Dakota from the moment the puck was dropped.

The Gophers have navigated a tough early schedule featuring top-10 opponents and have emerged undefeated.

“[We’re] really pleased with our start. This has been an incredibly tough month,” Frost said. “To start with four top-10 opponents like we have and get through it as we’ve done, we’re pleased with that.”