Minnesota splits a pair in home tourney

Brian Deutsch

Coming off of this weekend’s Easton Shootout, the Minnesota women’s hockey team showed that it belongs among the best in college hockey.

The previously third-ranked Gophers split two games this weekend, beating Maine 5-2 Friday night and losing a 6-5 overtime heartbreaker to No. 2 New Hampshire Saturday.

The offense scored 11 goals and out-shot its opponents 81 to 29. But the inexperienced Gophers defense gave up eight goals on those 29 shots.

“We’re a little young at defense, they’re learning as they go, working hard,” coach Laura Halldorson said, “These games were a good challenge.”

Sophomore forward Gigi Marvin scored the first goal of the year for the Gophers with 8:25 remaining in first period during a Minnesota power play.

But Maine answered back later in the period with a power-play goal of its own, when freshman forward Taryn Peacock was able to direct the puck through a crowd and into the net.

“We didn’t have a strong first (period),” Halldorson said. “We got better as we went. It took us a period to get going.”

The Gophers retook the lead in the second period when junior forward Erica McKenzie knocked a rebound into the net six minutes into the period.

Senior captain Andrea Nichols scored the game-winning goal when she collected a rebound from senior forward Becky Wacker and slipped it into the net with 6:09 left in the second period.

Minnesota added two more goals in the third period to seal the victory.

“It was a pretty good game,” freshman forward Kelli Blankenship said. “Maine stepped it up and gave us a challenge.”

The second game of the Shootout was a nail-biter, much like last year’s national semifinal game between the two squads.

Blankenship put the Gophers on the board 11 minutes into the game when she caught a pass from McKenzie and shot it past New Hampshire goalie Melissa Bourdon for her first goal at Minnesota.

New Hampshire tied the game five minutes later when sophomore forward Sam Faber bounced her shot off of Minnesota freshman defenseman Michelle Maunu’s skates and past Brittony Chartier.

Late in the first, the Wildcats made a costly error when two penalties put them down two skaters for a minute and half.

Blankenship took advantage of the power play and scored her second goal of the night with less than four minutes to play in the first frame.

“(Scoring my first goals) felt pretty good,” Blankenship said. “My favorite part was coming back to my teammates.”

The Gophers looked to be pulling away a minute into the second period when Nichols weaved between the New Hampshire defensemen and scored a shorthanded goal for Minnesota, putting her team up 3-1.

But New Hampshire dominated the remainder of the period, scoring three unanswered goals and capping it off by a goal from freshman forward Kelly Paton 14:47 into the second period.

Paton intercepted a pass in front of the Gophers’ goal and snuck the puck past Chartier. The goal put New Hampshire on top 4-3 going into the third period.

“UNH never gave up, battled back,” Halldorson said. “(The game) reminded me a lot of last year.”

Minnesota caught up to the Wildcats after New Hampshire’s Nicole Hekle was called for roughing when she threw a punch at Nichols in front of the Minnesota net.

Forward Whitney Graft and the Gophers capitalized on the penalty, tying the game when the junior poked the puck past Bourdon with 15:59 remaining in the third.

The Wildcats reclaimed the lead nine minutes later when junior forward Sadie Wright-Ward ripped a shot past Chartier.

But Minnesota came back in dramatic fashion with less than two minutes left in the game, when McKenzie caught Bourdon out of position and rocketed a one-timer into the open net, sending the game to overtime.

Unfortunately for the Gophers, McKenzie’s goal just delayed the celebration for the Wildcats.

Minnesota made a costly mistake when Miller was called for cross-checking 1:07 into overtime. The penalty put the Gophers a player down and allowed junior defenseman Martine Garland to score her first goal of the season, giving New Hampshire a 6-5 overtime victory and settling the score from last season.

“(Losing) is always a disappointment, especially after coming back and especially against UNH.” Willey said. “They were a tough team, and it just wasn’t our night.”