Minnesota wins inaugural edition of Minnesota Cup

The Gophers defeated St. Cloud State 5-1 on Sunday at Ridder Arena.

Freshman Taylor Heise goes for the goal on Friday, Dec. 7 at Ridder Arena. The Gophers won against the Robert Morris Colonials 6-1.

Elle Moulin

Freshman Taylor Heise goes for the goal on Friday, Dec. 7 at Ridder Arena. The Gophers won against the Robert Morris Colonials 6-1.

by Erik Nelson

The Gophers didn’t need overtime like they did Saturday to win the Minnesota Cup final on Sunday.

No. 2 Minnesota (19-2-1, 9-2-1-0 WCHA) defeated St. Cloud State (7-16-2, 2-12-0-0 WCHA) 5-1 on Sunday at Ridder Arena. Center Taylor Heise and right winger Grace Zumwinkle led the way for Minnesota offensively. Both Heise and Zumwinkle scored two goals apiece.

“It’s fun to be the champions of the inaugural Minnesota Cup,” head coach Brad Frost said. “A great crowd over the weekend watching some great hockey and four competitive games. [It’s] a good start to 2019.”

Unlike Saturday when Minnesota-Duluth scored first, the Gophers opened the scoring at 4:16 of the first period. Center Taylor Wente deflected a shot from defender Emily Brown for her seventh goal of the season after it took an initial deflection off of left winger Nicole Schammel. Minnesota extended its lead when Heise beat St. Cloud State goaltender Janine Alder with a quick wrist shot at 5:51 of the first period. 

Zumwinkle scored her first goal of the game on a power play at 8:36 of the second period. After receiving a pass across the ice from Schammel, Zumwinkle whipped a one-timer past Alder for her team-leading 15th goal of the season.

After St. Cloud State cut Minnesota’s lead to 3-1 midway though the second period, Heise and Zumwinkle each scored in the third. Heise’s empty-net goal at 18: 21 of the third period sealed the victory for Minnesota. It was her ninth goal of the season and second of the game. Five of Heise’s nine goals this season have come against the Huskies.

Heise said she had no explanation why she does well against St. Cloud State.

“I have no clue,” Heise said. “I guess I’ve been lucky against them.”

Goaltender Sydney Scobee made 22 saves, winning her fifth game of the season. Heise said the Gophers made a stronger commitment to defense against St. Cloud. Minnesota allowed 36 shots-on goal in last night’s win over Minnesota-Duluth.

“We saw that we had a few loopholes, but we fixed them today,” Heise said. “We didn’t have any bad line changes. We had a lot of good back pressure. We had everyone committed to paying the price of backchecking. You’re going to feel it but once you get to the bench, you get a two to three minute rest and you’re fine.”

In a postgame ceremony, Zumwinkle was named MVP of the Minnesota Cup. Zumwinkle scored three goals on the weekend. Zumwinkle and left winger Taylor Williamson were named to the Minnesota Cup all-tournament team. Moments later, left winger Tianna Gunderson lifted the Minnesota Cup instead of captain Kelly Pannek. 

Zumwinkle said she couldn’t have been MVP without her teammates, including Schammel and Wente.

“As a unit, we all work well together,” Zumwinkle said. “It doesn’t matter who scores at the end of the day. We set each other up and have fun together.”

Minnesota’s next series will be against Minnesota State (8-8-4, 3-7-2-1) on Friday and Saturday at Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, Minnesota. Friday’s game begins at 7:07 p.m. and Saturday’s game begins at 3:07 p.m.

Frost said Minnesota needs to continue to focus on defense against the Mavericks.

“They’re a hard team to score on,” he said. “They defend well, starting with their goaltender [Abigail Levy]. For us, we’ve got to keep the puck out of our net. We don’t want to get into a track meet with teams.”