Over 240 minutes later, and still not giving up goals

With two more shutouts this weekend, the Gophers are hot as can be.

Nick Heronimus

.MANKATO, Minn. – The Minnesota women’s hockey team finished off the first half of their season on a high note by sweeping Minnesota State.

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wayne State
what: Women’s hockey
when: 1 p.m., Sat., Jan. 5
where: Detroit

The Gophers (13-4-1, 11-4-1 WCHA) beat the Mavericks 6-0 Friday night and then 1-0 on Saturday. Minnesota shook off sluggishness early on in both games to capture the two well-earned victories for the sweep.

With the two shutouts against Minnesota State (5-10-1, 5-8-1 WCHA), the Gophers have held opponents scoreless for the past 242 minutes and 18 seconds. During that stretch, Minnesota has also recorded four consecutive shutouts. Both are new school records.

“We are working really hard in our ‘D’ zone, and the biggest thing is our communication in it,” senior forward Erica McKenzie said.

Goaltending is another reason for the dominance of the Gophers’ defense and this weekend displayed both of Minnesota’s netminders playing at a high level.

“Our goaltenders are playing very well and the only thing better than one really good goalie is two,” said head coach Brad Frost.

Junior goaltender Kim Hanlon played spectacularly in net Friday to record her third shutout in four games.

Her play in the first period of Friday’s game helped the Gophers to overcome a slow offensive start. She had 12 saves in the first period alone to prevent the Mavericks from taking an early lead against Minnesota.

With her victory, Hanlon pushed her record to 6-1-1 for the season.

Freshman goaltender Jenny Lura followed Hanlon’s performance Saturday with her own dazzling display of defense.

Lura stopped 19 shots to record her second career shutout. On her way to victory Lura stoned some quality scoring chances for Minnesota State.

One of those times she knocked a Mavericks’ rebound put-back out of the air with her glove while she was flat on her back.

The pressure Lura faced on the play was so great that the players around her eventually knocked the net loose from its posts.

Offensively, Minnesota struggled to get out of the gates early in their series with Mankato.

Friday the Gophers had only three shots in the first period and on Saturday, only five.

It hasn’t been uncommon to see Minnesota put 15 or more shots on net in a period, but the Mavericks prevented the Gophers from getting off to quick starts.

A turning point in Friday’s game came when Frost called a timeout to talk things over with his team.

“They were out working us all over the ice, and if he didn’t call that timeout I’m not sure what would have happened,” junior defense Rachael Drazan said.

Even though the amount of shots on Friday was low, Minnesota senior forward Jenelle Philipczyk still managed to place one in the net. The goal helped to give the Gophers some breathing room in the tightly contested first two periods of play.

And by the time the third period rolled around, Minnesota was ready to really break things open. The Gophers scored four goals as junior forward Gigi Marvin highlighted the period with two goals of her own.

Senior defender Anya Miller matched Marvin’s offensive output with a career-high two goals as well.

Saturday, the only goal necessary came from McKenzie. The goal was her 14th of the season and the 6th game-winning goal she has recorded so far this year.

“Today I just got lucky and it went in,” McKenzie said. “It was just a tribute to the hard work of everyone on the ice.”

Minnesota State’s pesky defenders prevented any more offense from the Gophers. They pestered Minnesota’s players constantly with their sticks and bodies until officials stopped play with one of the nine penalties the Mavericks received.