Gophers unveil championship banner, rout SCSU twice

Minnesota has outscored opponents 29-1 this season.

by Betsy Helfand

There’s a new banner hanging from the rafters in Ridder Arena.

Minnesota’s 2011-12 national championship banner was unfurled at its home rink this weekend before the Gophers took the ice and swept St. Cloud State.

Minnesota won Friday’s game 7-1 and Saturday’s 4-0.

Head coach Brad Frost said after Friday’s game that he thought, at times, the team had been outcompeted and outhustled.

But while the Huskies came out strong in the first period both nights, it wasn’t enough against the No. 1 Gophers.

On Saturday, Frost said the team learned that “sometimes we’re going to have to win ugly.”

“We had to be a little … grittier,” he said. “We had to take a few more punches and just find a way to continue to fight through things and get to the net.”

On Friday, the Gophers broke the game open with three power play goals in the first period. On Saturday, they had to be patient.

“We didn’t get going with our power play early like we did last night … and so we really had to fight and scratch and claw through the game tonight,” Frost said Saturday.

Minnesota’s first goal Saturday came off a Milica McMillen one-timer that was tipped in by forward Maryanne Menefee.

“My role for the power play is to be in front of the net, just create havoc [and] try to tip it in,” Menefee said. “It was a nice shot by Milica … so it was perfect for a tip.”

Meghan Lorence added a goal for the Gophers in the second period before they put the game out of reach with two goals in the third — one by freshman Hannah Brandt and another by Menefee.

“They came out flying, [and] they tried to sit with us, and they did it for most of the game,” McMillen said. “I think we needed to pick up the pace at the end, and we did.”

Menefee also got the offense going Friday at the 11:06 mark on a 5-on-3 power play.

Menefee received a puck in front of the net from Amanda Kessel and tapped it in for Minnesota’s first goal.

Less than a minute later, Minnesota capitalized on a one-man advantage. Kelly Terry corralled a rebound and set up Sarah Davis, who found the back of the net.

Frost said Friday that he thought St. Cloud came out hard in the first 10 minutes of the game and “put some extensive pressure on us in our zone.”

But the Gophers broke through the pressure, thanks in part to efficient power plays. Four of their seven goals Friday came with the man-advantage, and two of their four goals Saturday came on the power play.

Frost praised on Friday the team’s top power play unit comprised of Kessel, Menefee, Brandt, McMillen and Megan Bozek.

Kessel, Menefee and Brandt also comprise Minnesota’s top-scoring line.

The trio scored seven of the Gophers’ 11 goals this weekend, and they were on the ice for another goal.

“I just have to get in the right spot at the right time. [My linemates] make beautiful passes. … They just make everything so much easier,” Menefee said.

Kessel, the team’s top scorer last year, is rebounding from offseason hip surgery, but she saw a fair amount of ice time this weekend.

She scored two goals and had five assists on the weekend, and she said Friday that her confidence coming off the injury is starting to return.

Frost said Friday that the team would continue to tinker with line combinations.

“We’ve got to have at least two scoring lines,” he said. “The good news for us is our third line is really putting the puck in the net here as well.”

Minnesota had contributions from three lines Friday and two Saturday.

Frost said this was a good learning weekend for the team and that it “needed a test like this from a WCHA opponent.”

The Gophers’ first real test of the season will come next week from a non-WCHA opponent.

Minnesota will hit the road for the first time this season to play St. Lawrence, which entered this weekend ranked No. 7 before dropping two games to unranked Clarkson.