All season long, Minnesotaís womenís hockey team has been nearly invincible when holding a lead.
But this weekend the fourth-ranked Gophers (22-9-1, 17-8-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) proved they could come from behind to pull out the victory.
Minnesota won 3-2 Friday night at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud and 4-2 Saturday afternoon at Ridder Arena against ninth-ranked St. Cloud State (15-16-1, 12-13-1 WCHA) to pick up the four-game season sweep over the Huskies.
ìIt shows that we are mentally pretty strong right now, to be able to come back from deficits late in the game, especially pulling out a win,” coach Laura Halldorson said.
ìThat bodes well for us as we head into postseason here in a couple weeks.”
Senior defender Allie Sanchez said this weekendís sweep shows how much the young Gophers have matured.
ìI think itís starting to click a little bit. I think earlier in the season games like this we might have struggled a little bit more,” she said. ìWeíre really starting to dig down, come through, come from behind in the end and come away with a win.”
On Saturday it looked like the Gophers were in for a letdown after St. Cloud State junior forward Denelle Maguet scored just 12 seconds into the game.
But sophomore forward Erica McKenzie ó who compiled a whopping seven points on the weekend ó tied the game at 5:34 into the first when she rebounded in freshman forward Gigi Marvinís shot attempt.
Still, the Huskies wouldnít go away. Capitalizing on a Minnesota penalty at the end of the first period, senior forward Ashley Stewart put St. Cloud ahead 2-1 just 39 seconds into the second with the power-play goal.
After McKenzie tied the game once again with 6:14 in the period, both teams went scoreless until senior defender Sanchez converted the Gophersí only power play of the series with 2:22 remaining in the game to put Minnesota ahead. McKenzie added an empty-netter in the third.
ìThey came ready to play, and obviously we didnít on the first shift out and they buried the puck,” McKenzie said.
ìBut people werenít getting frustrated; we knew we were going to get it done. There is a lot of confidence right now on our team. We just pushed forward and worked as hard as we can, and obviously that paid off; we got some goals so it worked out for us.”
The reigning national defensive player of the week ó
freshman goalie Kim Hanlon ó got the nod Saturday after getting the start Friday, saving 23 shots on the weekend.
Itís the first time the same
goalie has started for the Gophers since Hanlon started Jan. 6 and Jan. 7 against Bemidji State.
But Halldorson said people shouldnít read too much into the decision.
ìWe think Kimís been playing really well,” Halldorson said. ìShe has great numbers. We wanted to give her a weekend where she had to prepare mentally and physically for
two games. We felt she deserved an opportunity to do that, and she came away with two wins.”
ìIt doesnít necessarily mean anything for the future.”
On Friday, the Gophers did what they have done all
year on the road: win. Surprisingly for a team made up mostly of underclassmen, Minnesota finishes the year 12-3-1 away from home.
After a scoreless first period of action, the gameís first goal was put into the books 2:25 into the second period when freshman standout Gigi Marvin put the puck past Lauri St. Jacquesí glove side for her 11th goal of the year.
But St. Cloud State ó which had won seven of its past eight coming in ó proved they werenít going to go away easily. Junior forward Hailey Clarkson scored a goal at 14:51 of the second and Maguet scored with just 35 seconds remaining in the stanza to give the Huskies a 2-1 advantage.
The Gophers showed their resolve in the final period of play. Minnesota tied the contest once again when freshman defender Dagney Willey picked an opportune time to score her first career goal at 2:36 of the third.
Shortly thereafter, the Gophers took the lead for good when McKenzie scored an even-strength goal midway through the third.
With the win, Minnesota sealed home-ice advantage for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
ìIt was a huge sweep for the weekend. Weíre starting to play better at home,” McKenzie said. ìWe clinched home ice so we better be playing well at home now.”
Said Halldorson, ìItís just nice to come away with four points against a very good team.”