Gophers beat St. Cloud in first game of WCHA playoffs

The third line had three goals, two by Sophie Skarzynski

Forward Grace Zumwinkle readies to hit the puck during the first round of the WCHA Playoffs against St. Cloud State on Friday.

Max Ostenso

Forward Grace Zumwinkle readies to hit the puck during the first round of the WCHA Playoffs against St. Cloud State on Friday.

Max Biegert

The Gophers extended their unbeaten streak against St. Cloud State to 40 games on Friday night. 

Minnesota entered the first weekend of the WCHA playoffs knowing that if it lost to St. Cloud State in this round, it ran the risk of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006-2007. 

The No. 3 seed Gophers (21-10-3) beat No. 6 seed St. Cloud State 5-1 in game one of the WCHA first round of playoffs at Ridder Arena. 

The third line of Lindsay Agnew, Taylor Williamson, and Sophie Skarzynski for Minnesota was pivotal in the victory. The trio scored two goals in the second period and then added one more in the third. Skarzynski tallied two goals on the night. 

“They are really starting to do a nice job communicating and they are confident,” head coach Brad Frost said. “They are establishing the fore-check, creating turnovers and they were able to bang some shots home.” 

Skarzynski scored her second goal of the game off of a rebound that she poked through the legs of freshman goaltender Emma Polusny with 10 minutes left to play. 

St. Cloud State (8-19-5) got one goal back in the third period. They pulled Polusny with 7:40 to play in a move to create scoring chances, but with 5:11 left to play, Alex Woken scored an empty netter to put the game out of reach and seal the 5-1 victory for Minnesota. 

The scoring started at 8:32 left in the second period after Nicole Schammel streaked down the middle of the ice, received a pass and beat St. Cloud State goalie Polusny to put the Gophers up 1-0. Olivia Knowles slapped a low shot from the point 30 seconds later and Williamson tipped the puck past Polusny for Minnesota’s second goal. Skarzynski scored off of a rebound to put the Gophers up 3-0. 

Frost said the turning point in the game came even before Schammel scored the first goal of the game. He said the saves senior goaltender Sidney Peters made in the first period to keep the game scoreless. 

“They had a couple 3-on-2’s that she made some nice saves to keep the score at 0-0 and allowed us to get our feet under us a little bit,” Frost said.