Gophers upset by BSU in WCHA tourney

Minnesota is the top-seeded team in the NCAA tourney and will host RIT.

Grant Donald

Two years ago, Bemidji State was the owner of the worst record in the WCHA and the Gophers handily swept them in the WCHA tournament’s first round.

Now, the script has completely flipped after the Beavers shut out Minnesota 1-0 for the second time this season, preventing the Gophers from reaching the WCHA Final Face-Off title game for the first time since 2001.

“It just goes to show what kind of job their new coach has done,” junior forward Hannah Brandt said. “We’ve always had some trouble with Bemidji State, but now it’s becoming one of our hardest games on our schedule.”

Bemidji State alternate captain and former Gophers forward Stephanie Anderson netted the game’s only goal near the midway point in the third period. The Gophers had plenty of chances, recording 37 shots on goal, but sophomore Bemidji goalie Brittni Mowat turned them all away.

The loss hasn’t completely sunk the Gophers, though, as the team now shifts its focus to the NCAA tournament, which begins next weekend.

Minnesota will enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed and will host Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), which will be making its NCAA tournament debut next Saturday at Ridder Arena.

“It’s one of those things where we don’t know a lot about them. I do know that they have a very good goalie — one of the best in the country,” head coach Brad Frost said. “They won their tournament, so they are obviously feeling confident and comfortable with where they are at.”

The Gophers joined Wisconsin as the WCHA teams to be selected in the eight-team field. The two rivals could meet in the semifinals if they both are successful in the quarterfinals.

However, Frost acknowledged that Saturday’s loss changes the complexion of the week of preparation for RIT.

“You obviously never want to come into the NCAA tournament right off a loss,” Frost said. “But our players know what is at stake, and I believe they will come ready to work.”

One thing that Minnesota may want to work on is capitalizing on scoring chances.

Saturday marked the third loss of the year — all shutouts.

“It’s frustrating when you don’t score,” Frost said. “I thought we — at times — panicked with the puck [Saturday]. We generated our best opportunities when we used our defensemen and got them involved, but we just didn’t capitalize.”

Minnesota’s best chance came in the first period when junior Maryanne Menefee’s shot deflected off the post. The Gophers also came up empty on two power play opportunities, including one late in the game.

“I don’t think anyone on the team ever thought that we weren’t going to get a goal,” Brandt said. “We had our chances, but their goalie made some huge saves and we just ran out of time at the end.”

The Beavers’ lone goal came after a lengthy discussion by the officials.

Anderson was presented with a one-on-one opportunity with Minnesota’s Meghan Lorence when she was called for slashing. The official never stopped play, though, and the puck trickled into the net with Gophers goalie Amanda Leveille freezing up for a brief moment.

“It looked like [Anderson] might have kicked [the puck] in the net, but they called it a goal and you can’t do anything about it now,” Leveille said. “It’s now time to regroup and get ready for our final push. We can’t afford any more mistakes.”