Gophers split with Beavers

Bemidji State goalie Emily Brookshaw stopped 28 shots in Friday’s win.

Brian Deutsch

The Minnesota women’s hockey team continued its recent woes this weekend as the Gophers allowed Bemidji State to pick up just its second win in the 34-game history between the two programs.

The eighth-ranked Gophers dropped the Friday opener 2-0 in a surprise upset before answering soundly Saturday in a 5-3 win.

“I expected more from our team (Friday). I give Bemidji credit because they played hard and they deserved to win,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “It’s very disappointing that we came out the way we did and we were never able to turn things around.”

Minnesota (20-9-1 overall, 17-8-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) could not get past the Beavers’ defense and junior goalie Emily Brookshaw on Friday.

The few real scoring chances Bemidji State allowed Friday were turned away by Brookshaw, who stopped 28 shots to earn her second shutout of the season.

Gophers junior forward Bobbi Ross said on Thursday that her team would need to pick up the rebounds if they wanted to be successful, but Brookshaw gave Minnesota few opportunities as she was able to kick most of the rebounds out of the danger zone or use her speedy glove to snag the puck.

On the other side of the ice, the Beavers found interesting ways to beat Minnesota sophomore goaltender Kim Hanlon.

Bemidji State (11-16-5, 9-13-4 WCHA) got on the scoreboard less than four minutes into the contest when junior forward Jessica Pullar deflected a pass in between Hanlon’s legs.

The Beavers caught another break in the second period when a pile of skaters from both squads slid into the net with the puck.

After she made the initial save, Hanlon was forced to stand idly by and watch as the puck was pushed in to give Bemidji State the 2-0 victory.

“Overall, I just don’t think we had it (Friday),” junior forward Whitney Graft said. “To be honest, our effort wasn’t there, our heart wasn’t in the game and we just didn’t play very well.”

After being held scoreless the night before, Minnesota answered early in the Saturday finale.

Halldorson adjusted the lines before the game and moved freshman defenseman Alexandra Zebro up to a forward on the third line with Graft and senior Andrea Nichols.

The move worked out for the Gophers as the line picked up two goals in the game, including Graft’s goal that came a little more than a minute into the game.

Her goal appeared to jumpstart the Gophers, who have come out the gate slow as of late.

Graft and Nichols led the team with three points each. Graft scored a pair of first-period goals and added an assist late in the third period.

Nichols, who was honored before the game with fellow seniors Becky Wacker and Maggie Souba in their last regular season home game, scored her 13th goal of the season and recorded a pair of assists in the win.

She said scoring a goal in her last regular season game at Ridder Arena was a confidence booster for herself, and picking up Saturday’s win will hopefully help the team as the playoffs approach.

Another thing that will help the team down the road is limiting the number of penalties it takes.

After drawing an unusually high number of penalties throughout the second half of the season, the Gophers disciplined themselves this weekend and were called for only seven penalties in the two games.

However, Bemidji State was able to take advantage of one power-play opportunity in Saturday’s matinee when junior forward Tara Hiscock tied the game at 2-2 with her second goal of the first period.

Her goal was just the first power-play goal allowed by Minnesota in its last 31 chances.

Halldorson said that Saturday’s win was a huge boost of confidence after Friday’s loss, and hopefully the boost will carry into next week’s season finale at Minnesota Duluth.

“The competition is going to heat up next weekend,” Halldorson said. “There’s no room for error. We can’t have an off-night and we can’t be inconsistent.”