Kessel paces Gophers to blowout win

The Gophers beat Minnesota State-Mankato 8-1 to earn their 31st consecutive victory.

Megan Ryan

MANKATO, Minn. – The last time the Gophers women’s hockey team played Minnesota-State Mankato, the Gophers equaled and broke the NCAA Division I winning streak record.

Two months later, the Gophers have extended their record to 31 games after an 8-1 win against the Mavericks.

“[We] just found out before the game that we set the record against Mankato,” head coach Brad Frost said. “That seems like about three or four months ago, and apparently it wasn’t that long ago. So we really don’t think about it a whole lot.”

The No. 1 Gophers and unranked Mavericks scored three goals within the first four minutes.

The first two – a deflected shot by sophomore forward Rachel Bona and a breakaway goal by the Mavericks’ Lauren Smith – had to be reviewed.

While both goals ultimately counted, the score didn’t stay even for long. Sophomore defender Rachel Ramsey gave the Gophers the lead again at the 3:46 mark after assists from freshmen defender Lee Stecklein and forward Kelly Terry.

The Gophers scored one more before the end of the first period when senior forward Becky Kortum popped the puck up and over Mankato’s junior goaltender Danielle Butters.

“The quick start was great,” Frost said. “And we kind of gave one right back there, but to get the lead again and get up by two after the first period was pretty good.”

Junior forward Amanda Kessel dominated the second period, scoring all three of the Gophers’ goals.

The WCHA’s leading scorer struck first at the 8:40 mark during a Mankato power play. About a minute later, on a Gophers power play, Kessel scored after a quick cross from freshman forward Maryanne Menefee.

When Kessel solidified her hat trick by sneaking the puck through the five-hole at 13:02, the Mavericks took a time out and brought in a new goaltender, sophomore Erin Krichiver.

“I usually have a tough time playing here,” Kessel said. “A two goal lead [after the first period] — that’s not very safe, and they have some people on their team that can score. So I think we knew in the locker room that we needed a few more to seal the deal.”

The Gophers had put sophomore goaltender Amanda Leveille in for senior Noora Raty at the start of the second period after a shutout was no longer possible, and Leveille kept a clean sheet for the rest of the game. But with the Gophers outshooting the Mavericks 45-12, she had an easier time than her counterpart.

Minnesota added two more goals in the third period – one from sophomore forward Meghan Lorence and another from Bona.

Five Gophers players scored goals, and 10 had assists.

“It seemed like anyone who was out there managed to get something going,” said junior forward Sarah Davis, who had three assists.

The Gophers will finish their series against the Mavericks on Saturday in Mankato. Kessel will look to break the 200-point milestone.

Davis said she doesn’t think it will be hard for Kessel to score two more points.

“I’m just glad I’ve only got to play against her in practice, all right?” Davis said. “Yeah, she’s having a good season.”