Minn. swept for only 2nd time

The No. 1 Gophers fell to in-state rival Minnesota-Duluth this past weekend.

Minn. swept for only 2nd time

John Hageman

The No. 1 Gophers hoped to come back from Duluth with a Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular season title, but instead returned with a slimmer lead in the conference and a few bruises. Minnesota (21-5-4 overall, 17-4-3 WCHA) fell both nights to rival No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth (21-7-2, 17-5-2) by scores of 3-1 and 3-0. The comfortable seven-point lead in the conference was cut down to just three points after the team got swept for just the second time this season. Minnesota came out strong Friday, outshooting the Bulldogs 21-6 in the first period. Junior Laura May gave the Gophers their only lead of the series with a goal at 3:47 in the first period. âÄúWe were really on fire in FridayâÄôs game in the first period,âÄù senior defender Alexandra Zebro said. âÄúWe kind of underestimated how hard Duluth was going to go out.âÄù The Bulldogs woke up in the second period, outshooting Minnesota 15-7 while tying up the game with a goal from Laura Fridfinnson at 12:53 in the second. The Gophers responded with 15 shots on goal in the third to Minnesota-DuluthâÄôs five, but could not score and the Bulldogs went on to win 3-1. âÄúIn the second period we were a little flat, but in the third period we picked it up again,âÄù Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said. âÄúUnfortunately [we] came out on the wrong end of it.âÄù Sophomore Alyssa Grogan played goalie Friday and stopped 23 shots. The Gophers were frustrated by the play of Bulldogs goalie Jennifer Harss, who stopped 42 of MinnesotaâÄôs 43 shots on goal Friday. Despite giving up numerous rebound attempts Friday, Zebro said the bounces just did not go the GophersâÄô way. Minnesota hoped to turn it around in the Saturday matchup, but costly penalties proved to be the difference. The Bulldogs got off to an early lead from Emmanuelle Blais at 4:34 in the first and never looked back. Fridfinnson and Tara Gray added goals in the second and third to give Duluth the 3-0 victory. In between the pipes for the Gophers Saturday was junior Jenny Lura, who came up with 23 saves. All three goals scored by Minnesota-Duluth Saturday came on power play, which was a new sight for a Gophers penalty kill that is best in the WCHA at 92.3 percent. The third period Saturday got especially messy, with both teams combining for 15 penalties. At one point, a small melee broke out after junior Emily West was cross checked from behind. West suffered a concussion and missed the team bus to stay in the hospital as a precautionary measure overnight, according to team spokeswoman Michelle Traen. A decision on whether she will play next week will be made later in the week. âÄúWhenever we play an in-state rival like Duluth, emotions are going to be high, and thatâÄôs what happened,âÄù sophomore Sarah Erickson said. Minnesota will only have one more game all season away from Ridder Arena, as they head to St. Cloud for a home-and-home series with the Huskies and finish out the year at home against Wisconsin. The postseason will see the Gophers at home for the duration of WCHA playoffs âÄî the Final Faceoff is at Ridder âÄî and the Frozen Four, should they continue winning. The Gophers have struggled on the road, going 6-5-4 on the season while holding a perfect 15-0-0 record in Ridder Arena. âÄúThatâÄôs obviously comforting,âÄù Frost said. âÄúIt would be nice if we had a better record on the road.âÄù Duluth will carry an eight-game winning streak against Ohio State next weekend and will head to Bemidji for the final series of the season against the Beavers. Even with a slimmer lead in the conference and the Bulldogs doing all they can to catch up, Frost hoped to use this weekend as a measurement of where his team will be come playoff time. âÄúWhen we score one goal on the weekend, thatâÄôs not going to get it done,âÄù Frost said. âÄúWeâÄôre hopeful that this is kind of a turning point for us as we go down the stretch.âÄù