Gophers split opening weekend games at Ridder Arena

by Zach Eisendrath

Prior to Saturday night’s showdown with top-ranked St. Lawrence, Minnesota women’s hockey coach Laura Halldorson said her team would need to “take full advantage of early opportunities” in order to gain the momentum necessary to pull out the victory.

But then the Saints – ranked No. 1 in both the and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine preseason polls – did exactly what Halldorson said the Gophers needed to do.

No. 3 Minnesota (1-1) fell to St. Lawrence (1-0) 3-1 at Ridder Arena, marking the team’s first home loss since February 2004. The Gophers opened the season with a 3-0 win over Connecticut on Friday night.

“We got pushed around tonight,” Halldorson said after Saturday’s game.

“It was good for us to play a team of that caliber and get a better idea of where we are and what we need to work on.”

The Saints got off to a fast start when freshman forward Alison Domenico scored on a power play at the 10:34 mark of the first period.

The Nepean, Ontario, native was impressive all night in her regular season debut. She followed her earlier goal with a goal at the 15:30 mark in the second period, giving St. Lawrence a commanding 2-0 lead.

Bobbi Ross, last season’s WCHA Rookie of the Year, scored her first goal of the season two minutes later on a power play, putting the Gophers in position for a comeback.

But St. Lawrence was too strong.

The Saints responded with a power play goal of their own when senior Emilie Berlinguette scored with only five seconds remaining in the period, taking away any momentum Minnesota would have gained heading into the second intermission. Domenico accumulated her third point of the night, assisting on the play.

“We were a step slow tonight,” Halldorson said. “They were a really good team. I think when we get offensive chances we have to get the puck to the net. When the puck’s in our own zone, we need to do a better job of protecting the front of the net.”

Captain Andrea Nichols – who assisted on the Gophers’ goal – said she expects better production from her team as the season progresses.

“I don’t think we played terrible,” Nichols said. “It’s early in the season and we have tons of room to improve. I’m not disappointed, but I know we can play better. “

Things were easier for the Gophers against Connecticut on Friday night.

Minnesota got on the board early when freshman forward Gigi Marvin – last years Ms. Hockey award recipient – scored her first career goal at 12:37 of the first period. Fellow freshman Melanie Gagnon and sophomore Liz Palkie assisted on the power play.

“I just wanted to come in and produce and help the team out,” Marvin said.

After a lackluster second period, team captain Andrea Nichols gave the Gophers a little breathing room with her goal midway through the third. Allie Sanchez assisted on the score.

Sophomore Erica McKenzie sealed the victory with her goal at the 17:28 mark in the period. Sanchez tallied her second assist of the night.

Making her first career start, freshman Brittony Chartier was brilliant behind the net. Chartier recorded a shutout, shielding away all 18 shot attempts.

But taking the weekend in total, coming off back-to-back national championships, the Gophers know they have a lot of work to do before thinking three-peat.

“We’ll take the positives from it and learn from our weaknesses,” Halldorson said. “I know we’ll take a hard look at our lineup and our personnel and probably tweak a few things.”