Gophers taste defeat, spit it back out

A win Sunday at Dartmouth came a day after Minnesota's first loss in 27 games.

Bridget Haeg

For the first time in 27 games Saturday, Minnesota’s top-ranked women’s hockey team lost.

But after a 4-3 overtime win Sunday against second-ranked Dartmouth, that didn’t seem to matter all that much.

“We don’t want to lose, but we took it as a learning tool,” junior forward Natalie Darwitz said. “We came out (Sunday) and fixed those mistakes.”

Bouncing back from Saturday’s 7-5 loss to the Green, the Gophers rallied for a 4-3 overtime win Sunday at Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H.

Minnesota (15-1-2, 12-0-2 WCHA) pulled off the win Sunday over Dartmouth (11-1-0, 6-0-0 ECAC) when senior forward Kelly Stephens netted a short-handed goal with 35 seconds left in overtime.

The Gophers said that going into overtime, they knew a tie would bring them little satisfaction.

So Stephens, who finished the weekend with two goals and two assists, capitalized on a pass from defender Ashley Albrecht.

“She made a perfect pass; it just landed right in front of me,” Stephens said. “It was a great play.”

The series handed the two teams – the only undefeated teams left in Division I women’s hockey entering the weekend – both of their first losses.

Sunday’s win also marked Minnesota’s first win in five tries on Dartmouth’s home ice.

“The comment I made between the third period and overtime was, ‘We have worked too hard to tie or lose this game,’ ” coach Laura Halldorson said.

But that meant coming back from a game in which the normally potent Gophers penalty kill allowed four Green goals in six opportunities.

“We had to do a better job on the penalty kill (going into game two),” Halldorson said. “We tightened it up defensively.”

Senior goaltender Jody Horak allowed all 10 goals on the weekend, including seven Dartmouth goals in only 17 shots Saturday.

Evening out the shots on Sunday became key.

“The mistakes that we made Saturday were defensive letdowns,” Darwitz said. “When you play a good team, it’s definitely costly.”

Minnesota picked it up Sunday, finishing with 31 shots to Dartmouth’s 26.

Darwitz had another signature weekend, leading the Gophers with seven points. She now has 18 goals and 35 assists on the season.

But the Gophers still said defense was the key.

“We can’t allow seven goals and expect to win a hockey game,” Stephens said.

So they allowed only three Sunday, splitting the series in a performance the Gophers said they found uplifting.

“It’s something that was probably going to happen sometime in the season,” Stephens said. “I’m just more proud of the way we responded.”