Minnesota starts 2011 with a convincing sweep and a win (finally) against UMD

The Gophers had lost six-straight, often in big games, to the Bulldogs, but won in a shootout Friday and 3-0 on Saturday.

Nate Gotlieb

The Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey team showed no signs of slowing down after a strong end to 2010, scoring nine goals and giving up just one in a sweep of Minnesota State to start 2011.

A week later, the Gophers answered a question that had been looming since October 2009: When would they again beat Minnesota-Duluth?

Minnesota had lost six in a row to their biggest rival, including agonizing 3-2 losses in both the WCHA championship game and the NCAA semifinals last season. The Gophers nearly ended the streak when they visited Duluth in late October, taking a 2-1 lead into the third period of the seriesâÄô first game, but they allowed two third-period goals and lost 3-2.

The Gophers ended their six-game skid against the Bulldogs this past weekend with a shootout win after a 2-2 tie Friday and an emphatic 3-0 win Saturday.

Minnesota had chances to open up the game Friday, tallying 28 shots in the first two periods, but could only manage a 2-1 lead heading into the third period. After two penalties early in the period, UMDâÄôs Kaite Wilson tied the game with a power play goal.

It started to look like a familiar story.

But this time, the GophersâÄô defense held strong, killing off two UMD power plays late in the third to force overtime. UMD controlled the puck for the majority of the extra period but failed to score.

Freshman Amanda Kessel and junior Anne Schleper each scored shootout goals for the Gophers, and Noora Räty saved a final attempt by UMDâÄôs Audrey Cournoyer, giving the Gophers a 2-1 shootout win.

The Gophers took control Saturday with a three-goal second period, generating 20 shots to UMDâÄôs eight.

There would be no third-period lapse Saturday, although Minnesota did pick up five penalties and only three shots on goal in the period.

âÄúI might have to come up with a different speech in between periods,âÄù Frost said after the game.

While the Gophers top two lines continued their usual goal scoring form, Minnesota has received an unexpected, eight-point contribution over the past two weekends from its third line.

Centered by freshman Bethany Brausen and flanked by senior wings Laura May and Terra Rasmussen, the line had had only one goal through the first twenty games of the season. TheyâÄôve scored four goals in the past four games, including two crucial goals.

With the Gophers clinging to a one-goal lead in the second game of the MSU series, Brausen found May open in the slot. May fired in the wrister, giving the Gophers a 3-1 lead midway through the second period.

The line produced in the clutch again Saturday, breaking a scoreless tie midway through the second period. Rasmussen fed the puck up to May, who found Brausen streaking up the middle of the ice. Brausen missed the initial attempt, but stuffed in the putback, giving the Gophers a 1-0 lead.

âÄúThat goal, to me, just epitomized what our team can do,âÄù head coach Brad Frost said, âÄúâĦIt was just picture perfect.âÄù

The line created chances all weekend against UMD, constantly charging the net. Altogether, the line outshot UMDâÄôs third line 17-3 on the weekend and had several near-misses, including two breakaway opportunities.

âÄúI canâÄôt exactly put my finger on it because we have been a very hard working line throughout,âÄù Brausen said. âÄúBut I think just the fact that weâÄôre playing with more and more confidence every single game and getting pucks to the net, which weâÄôre getting much, much better at.âÄù

Brausen, May and Rasmussen are just the latest to make a major contribution in MinnesotaâÄôs ongoing hot streak.

Since falling 5-0 against Wisconsin on Nov. 6, the Gophers have won 13 of their last 14 games, prompted by a more balanced scoring attack and a defense that hasnâÄôt allowed more than two goals since that loss.

âÄúWeâÄôre going to be tough to beat if we can play like we did tonight every single game,âÄù junior Sarah Erickson said after SaturdayâÄôs 3-0 win.

 

<b>Notes</b>

With her eighth shutout of the season, Räty tied Jody HorakâÄôs single season shutout record. Räty has 15 shutouts in 46 career games.

Emily West, MinnesotaâÄôs leading scorer last season, had successful but season-ending surgery over break. West took a medical redshirt this year and has one year of eligibility remaining.