Freshmen leading Gophers, helping smooth over West’s absence

Freshmen leading Gophers, helping smooth over Wests absence

Nate Gotlieb

The Gophers needed a spark Saturday night at Bemidji State. They had lost the night before âÄî only their third loss to the Beavers in 48 meetings âÄî and sat in sixth place in the WCHA standings. With the Gophers in danger of falling further back in the standings, their three leading scorers, freshmen Amanda Kessel, Kelly Terry and Sarah Davis, provided that spark. Davis scored midway through the first period to give the Gophers their first lead of the weekend. Kessel added a breakaway goal exactly one minute later. Terry couldnâÄôt resist the opportunity to join the party. She promptly snuck in a quick shot five seconds later, giving the Gophers a 3-0 lead. Three goals in a 1:05 span by three freshmen. Not a bad way to avenge a tough loss. Yet it was nothing new for the freshman trio. Kessel netted a hat-trick in the teamâÄôs exhibition opener against Manitoba, notched six points in the first series against Clarkson and has continued to provide scoring bursts on offense ever since. She was the teamâÄôs leading scorer before missing three games with an injury, and is second on the team in points. Terry quietly leads the Gophers with 19 points. SheâÄôs a consistent contributor to the stat sheet, having scored in 11 of 17 games. Davis has only five goals on the season but excels at helping her line find ways to score. She leads the team with .667 face-off winning percentage and has 10 assists. Since Kessel returned from injury Nov. 26, the three of them have been playing together on the same line. TheyâÄôve continued to generate at a high level, producing 13 points in the past four games. âÄúWeâÄôre all very good play makers, and we have a lot of speed on that line,âÄù Terry said. With senior and expected top scorer Emily West out for all but four games this season, Kessel, Davis and Terry havenâÄôt had much time to grow into a leading role. âÄúFor me, I think the notion is, after a couple games, youâÄôre no longer freshmen,âÄù Darwitz, a first team All-American her freshman season at Minnesota, said. âÄúTheyâÄôve been through the routine, know what to expect and now itâÄôs just time to step up and be a hockey player and help this team out as much as they can.âÄù Darwitz said Kessel, Davis and Terry are the types of players that thrive under pressure. âÄúThe more on the table, the more weâÄôre going to see out of them,âÄù she said. âÄúThe more theyâÄôre pushed, the more expectations on their shoulders, the better theyâÄôre going to perform. I think theyâÄôre those types of athletes that want that pressure, and perform well under pressure.âÄù The emergence of the freshmen has only motivated the upperclassmen to continue to work hard, Darwitz said. âÄúWhenever you have freshmen coming in and are getting a lot of playing time and critical playing time in critical situations, your upperclassmen take a step back and say, âÄòWow, I need to work harder, freshmen shouldnâÄôt be taking my spot,âÄô âÄù Darwitz said. Davis said sheâÄôs treated as an equal by upperclassmen and coaches alike, despite her newcomer status. âÄúNo oneâÄôs really different; everyoneâÄôs kind of the same,âÄù Davis said. âÄúJust because weâÄôre freshmen doesnâÄôt mean they expect anything less of us. So we have to give it our all, and they give it their all. And with everybody going at 100 percent, itâÄôs just been going good.âÄù