Though the Gophers have featured an explosive offense all season, over the weekend — the last of the regular season — they showed they can also lock down on defense.
Thanks to junior Milica McMillen’s game misconduct and another minor penalty later in the third period, the Gophers found themselves on the penalty kill for seven of the last 12 minutes while holding on to a one-goal lead.
But none of Bemidji State’s chances produced goals, allowing the Gophers to hang on for a 4-2 victory. The win completed the sweep after a 3-2 victory on Friday.
“Obviously, we aren’t looking forward to killing seven-minute penalties, but [penalty killing] is something that we have been focusing on over the last couple weeks,” senior captain Meghan Lorence said. “We killed off a potentially huge momentum shift which we will have to do moving forward.”
While the Beavers put on pressure at the end of the series, their quick starts troubled Minnesota throughout the weekend.
Bemidji State fought for the final points they needed to secure a home game in next weekend’s WCHA First Round. The team came out strong and went into the first intermission of both games with 1-0 leads.
“[Bemidji State] came out hungry and ready to go both games,” head coach Brad Frost said. “From the moment we were down, I saw our players move their feet a little more and generate more chances, which led to a couple huge second periods for us.”
Though Bemidji came out ahead after both first periods, Minnesota dominated both second periods, outscoring the Beavers 4-0 over the course of the weekend.
“We had to increase our battle level [after the first period],” Frost said. “They are big, strong and fast, and they block a lot of shots. We had to get more pucks and bodies to the net.”
On Saturday, the Gophers turned to an unlikely source to tie things up — sophomore Megan Wolfe scored her second goal of the year.
Four minutes later, Minnesota took the lead after Lorence put in a power-play goal for her 100th career point with the Gophers.
“I knew I only needed one more [point] heading into the weekend but really didn’t think about it much,” Lorence said. “I guess there wasn’t a better time for it to happen than in that situation.”
Minnesota added two more goals in the third period and redshirt freshman Sidney Peters made 19 saves overall to record her fifth career victory.
It took a little longer for the Gophers to pull to the front on Friday afternoon, as the game was still tied 2-2 heading into the final two minutes of the third period.
That was when Minnesota’s captain, senior Rachael Bona, found an opening off a rebound and buried the puck for the game-winning goal.
“It was good for us to be behind for a couple games and have to find a way to fight back,” Bona said. “That’s going to be important for us as we finish out the year because we are going to be playing some tougher teams, and to know that we can respond will be huge.”