Gophers split series against Merrimack

Merrimack beat the Gophers Friday night 4-3 in a surprising upset.

Redshirt junior forward Nicole Schammel readies a pass during a game against Merrimack at Rider Arena on Friday.

Jack Rodgers

Redshirt junior forward Nicole Schammel readies a pass during a game against Merrimack at Rider Arena on Friday.

Max Biegert

The noise from freshman Grace Zumwinkle’s shot and the cheers from the crowd at Ridder Arena on Friday meant that college hockey was back.

The Gophers kicked off their season against Merrimack on Friday night and found themselves in an unfamiliar situation after a 4-3 loss. The Gophers backed up the loss, however, with a 4-1 win on Sunday. Goaltender Alex Gulstene earned her first win of her career. 

“Not the result you want in game one, but we battled, played hard and had a lot of shot on net,” said head coach Brad Frost who enters into his 11th year at the helm. “You hope to see more than three when we put up almost 60 [shots].”

The Gophers looked to bounce back on Sunday after the Friday loss and that’s what they did. 

In the second game of the series, Gulstene made her first start with the Gophers after making an appearance in Friday’s game. She saw 15 shots and stopped 14 in her first career win. 

“The defense stepped up a lot and they saved my butt a few times,” Gulstene said. “There was a lot more communication between us both ways, which definitely helped.” 

Zumwinkle put the puck in the back of the net for the second night in a row. Taylor Wente added her first career goal in the third period. 

Nicole Schammel opened up the scoring with the first of her two goals on the night in the second period.

“It was a really good effort, I really like the bounce back from our team after the tough loss on Friday night,” said Frost. “Great again to see our freshmen step up.”

Seven different players across the two teams scored in game one of the series. 

Gophers sophomore Kippin Keller got the game’s first goal, but reminiscent of the whole game, Merrimack came back and got a goal only 90 seconds after her. 

There were three goals in the last minute of the first period. Zumwinkle notched her first goal in the Minnesota uniform and then another freshman Olivia Knowles grabbed her first goal of her career only 15 seconds later. The Gophers couldn’t close out the period, however, with Merrimack scoring with 13 seconds left. The first period left the Gophers up 3-2. 

“It’s a downer when you let a goal go in the last 30 seconds of a period,” said senior captain Sydney Baldwin. “It’s different looking game when you are going into the locker room two goals up instead of one.”

Merrimack came out with two quick goals in the second period. This caused Frost to bring in Gulstene in net for Sidney Peters. Merrimack held on to the victory despite being outshot 57-19. 

“I think we need to focus on getting those grade-A opportunities in front of the net and capitalizing on them,” Zumwinkle said. “After the second period, we had 61 shot attempts and 18 missed, so we just need focus on hitting the net more.”