Minnesota women’s hockey coach Laura Halldorson said last week she didn’t mind the Gophers opening up the season on the road.
It’s a good bet Halldorson didn’t mind her team was playing the University of Findlay either.
The Gophers swept a two-game series from the Oilers for the second consecutive year over the weekend, winning by convincing margins of 8-1 and 7-2.
Minnesota has now outscored the Oilers by a 26-4 margin the past two years and has never lost in the teams’ brief four-game history.
Freshman Natalie Darwitz notched seven points in the two games to lead the Gophers to their sixth season-opening victory in as many years. Three of those wins have come on the road.
The Gophers scored early and often in their season opener Saturday. The team tallied six goals in the first period and cruised to an 8-1 victory.
Darwitz was impressive in her collegiate debut, scoring a goal and adding three assists – all in the first period.
Fellow freshman Krissy Wendell and senior captain Ronda Curtin added three points apiece for the Gophers.
Darwitz continued her solid play in Sunday’s game, recording her first career hat-trick just 5:34 into the second period. She became the first Minnesota freshman to score three goals in a game since La Toya Clarke accomplished the feat in December of 2000 against Bemidji State.
The Gophers fell behind early in Sunday’s game when Findlay’s Melissa Oliver scored a power-play goal 4:10 into the contest.
It was the only time Minnesota trailed in either game, but the deficit didn’t last long.
Wendell won the ensuing face-off and scored an unassisted goal seven seconds later when she beat Findlay goalie Erin Blair to even the score at 1-1.
Darwitz then proceeded to score three goals in the next 15 minutes, putting Minnesota ahead to stay.
Sophomore goalie Jody Horak played both games in the net for the Gophers, stopping 37 of 40 shots.
Minnesota recorded 94 shots in the series and netted five power play goals to Findlay’s one.
“This was a good way to start our season,” Halldorson said of the team’s 2-0 start. “We were successful on the power play and we got scoring from a lot of different people.”
Minnesota opens WCHA league play Friday at 11th-ranked St. Cloud State.
The Gophers will then host the Huskies Saturday in the inaugural game at Ridder Arena.