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Short-handed women sweep Duluth

In the Gophers’ 7-5 win on Sunday, they scored three goals when the Bulldogs were on the power play.

With the score knotted at five and under 10 minutes left in regulation, Minnesota’s top-ranked women’s hockey team found offense at an unexpected time.

Minnesota sophomore defender Allie Sanchez was in the penalty box for roughing and the Gophers (24-4-2, 17-3-2 WCHA) were working to kill a power-play opportunity for the Bulldogs (17-11-2, 13-8-1) when lightning struck twice in a span of 23 seconds.

A pair of short-handed goals by sophomore Krissy Wendell and junior Kelly Stephens gave the Gophers a 7-5 win and a series sweep after beating Minnesota-Duluth 4-2 on Saturday.

“Obviously, the two short-handed goals on the same penalty kill were the difference,” Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said. “In a game like that, we didn’t know what to expect.”

Playing a four-on-five was not the plan going into the game, but the Gophers took what they could get – namely, three goals playing a skater short.

“It was almost like you wanted a penalty called on you,” Halldorson said. “We usually say ‘stay out of the box,’ but it worked out well that time.”

The game featured plenty of penalties, and both teams traded offensive surges. Minnesota racked up 15 penalties for 30 total penalty minutes while Minnesota-Duluth had 16 penalties totaling 32 minutes in the box.

Minnesota had 38 shots on goal to 35 for Minnesota-Duluth. The Gophers were 1-for-6 on the power play while the Bulldogs were 1-for-5. Junior goaltenders Brenda Reinen and Jody Horak combined for 30 saves for the Gophers and Riitta Schaublin recorded 31 stops for the Bulldogs.

“No lead was safe today,” Halldorson said. “It was a question of who was going to score last. It was quite a back-and-forth battle.”

The see-saw affair was an emotional roller coaster for the squads.

“I started screaming for the game in my sleep last night,” freshman Becky Wacker said. “There was a lot of emotion on the bench.”

At times during the game, that extra energy spilled out onto the ice. The teams exchanged blows throughout the game, and kept the penalty box personnel busy.

“Obviously there is a lot of bad blood between the two teams,” sophomore forward Natalie Darwitz said. “My biggest thing is that I don’t think they respect us. If a team doesn’t respect you, it’s pretty hard to take. They don’t want to lose against us and we are not going to lose against them in our own rink.”

Sunday marked the final home game for the four seniors on Minnesota’s roster. The underclassmen for the Gophers gave their older counterparts a win to complete the home portion of the regular season for Minnesota.

As a team the Gophers scored 15 points. Freshmen or sophomores accounted for 11 of those tallies.

On Saturday, the Gophers scored four goals in the second period en route to the 4-2 victory. Sophomore defender Ashley Albrecht scored her first goal of the season in the contest.

Minnesota can lock up a tie for the WCHA regular season title with a point next weekend at St. Cloud State. Two points would give the Gophers the title.

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