Minnesota does the splits, for once: A loss Saturday leads to a Sunday shutout

The Gophers won 1-0 Sunday behind goaltender Jody Horak’s 32 saves.

Chris Lempesis

Minnesota’s women’s hockey team saw its weekend begin with disappointment and end with satisfaction.

The top-ranked Gophers earned a 1-0 win over second-ranked Minnesota-Duluth on Sunday after having their 15-game winning streak snapped Saturday by a 4-2 loss.

Minnesota closed out the regular season with a 30-2-2 overall mark (25-1-2 WCHA).

“Duluth’s a great team,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “Coming out of the weekend with a split isn’t bad for us up at their place. It’s a tough place to play. I’m glad we won the second game.”

Senior goaltender Jody Horak and junior forward Krissy Wendell were the key players in Sunday’s victory.

Horak turned away every one of the Bulldogs’ 32 shots in earning her sixth shutout of the season.

She rebounded from a subpar effort Saturday in which she allowed three goals on 22 shots.

“Jody played awesome,” Wendell said. “She came up with a lot of big saves. She made big saves when you need them.”

Wendell accounted for all the offense the Gophers would need, scoring an unassisted goal at 2:25 of the second period.

“It started as broken play,” Wendell said of the goal, her 37th of the season. “I got past the neutral zone, went one on one, took a shot, and it happened to sneak in.”

The Gophers said they felt that they probably should have come out of the weekend with a sweep.

This is because in Saturday’s game, Minnesota outshot Minnesota-Duluth (24-4-2, 22-4-2) 42-22 but allowed three unanswered special teams goals in dropping its first WCHA contest of the season.

The first two Bulldog goals came on the power play, and the third was a shorthanded marker.

The Gophers also had struggles on the offensive end, most of which had to do with the play of Minnesota-Duluth sophomore netminder Riitta Schaublin.

Schaublin, at or near the top in most major statistical categories in the nation, stopped 40 shots and caused the Gophers headaches all evening.

Junior forward Natalie Darwitz and sophomore forward Andrea Nichols scored the Minnesota goals, with Darwitz’s coming shorthanded.

“We just got beat by a hot goaltender,” Horak said, “because we did everything we should have to win.”

Despite coming out of the weekend with a split, the Gophers feel they are really starting to hit their stride as a team – just in time for the postseason.

Minnesota will kick off its national championship defense Thursday.

The Gophers will face Bemidji State in the opening round of the WCHA tournament, which will be played at Ridder Arena. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m.

“I’m excited about where we are and the way we’re playing,” Halldorson said. “It’s been a lot of fun this season, and it’s only gonna get more exciting the rest of the way.”