Hungry Beavers can’t slow rolling Gophers

Bridget Haeg

Lesson number one for Minnesota’s women’s hockey team to take away from this weekend’s series at Bemidji State: Don’t underestimate the opponent.

Even though the Gophers swept the Beavers 5-0 Friday and 5-2 Saturday to bring their season record to 8-0-0, they found a worthier opponent than polls or statistics suggested.

“I thought Bemidji State played real well this weekend. It’s the best I’ve seen them play. I thought (Saturday) especially they came out strong and hung tough with us,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “I think (Saturday’s two goals allowed were) just a couple of defensive breakdowns, and they took advantage of those mistakes.”

After the Beavers took just eight shots on goal Friday – helping Minnesota senior goaltender Jody Horak to her fourth shutout – they came back Saturday, increasing their shots to 18 on goalie Brenda Reinen.

“We sort of wore them down in the first game in the third period when we got a lot of shots on goal. I think they responded very well, so (Saturday’s) game was more competitive,” Halldorson said.

Despite minor problems with the blueliners, Minnesota’s offense continued its dominance.

The regulars contributed throughout the weekend. Junior captain Krissy Wendell scored two goals and four assists. Her linemate, junior Natalie Darwitz, had two goals and three assists. Senior captain Kelly Stephens added two goals and one assist.

But this time, the other lines got their share of the victory too, including sophomore forwards Andrea Nichols, with one goal and two assists, and Becky Wacker, with two goals.

“It was nice to see Nichols and Wacker and Ross put the puck in the net this weekend, as well as our usuals,” Halldorson said.

Wacker, playing in her second series since a knee injury sidelined her for six months, said she is now playing relatively pain-free.

“I was just kind of going to the net hard and fighting through the picks they were trying to put on me. I was looking for rebounds and trying to find the puck around the net and just bury it in open places,” Wacker said.

Because the forwards have had little trouble notching goals this season, Minnesota looked to this series to continue its adjustment to the officials’ calling more penalties this season.

Though the Gophers were called for 12 penalties in the series, they said they thought they looked a little more in tune with the new penalty-calling than last series versus St. Cloud State, when they had 25.

“There were still quite a few penalties, (but) I think we are doing a better job of getting used to what’s going to be considered a penalty this year,” Halldorson said.

Heading into next weekend’s series versus Minnesota State-Mankato, the Gophers said they will continue to work on this against another lower-tier WCHA team.

“Because we’re on top, everyone’s going to give us their best game every game that we play,” Nichols said.

“Everybody that we play from now on is going to be better than the next.”