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Gophers could improve win streak to 13 in the WCHA

A sweep of Bemidji State could boost Minnesota to 21-4-3 in the conference.

The Minnesota women’s hockey team knows that wins never come easily in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, but that hasn’t stopped them recently.

The Gophers have a chance to extend their winning streak of conference games to 13 this weekend, as they head to Bemidji State for their final road series of the regular season.

The games are slated for 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the John Glas Fieldhouse.

Minnesota (19-4-3 overall, 15-4-1 WCHA) undeniably has the upper hand overall against the Beavers, boasting a 33-2-3 record. Both losses, however, have occurred within the past two years.

Though Bemidji State (4-19-3, 1-17-2) sits at the bottom of the WCHA standings, they are not a team that should be overlooked. They have tested the conference’s best teams, suffering one-goal losses to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State and the Gophers; they tied Wisconsin 0-0.

Unfortunately for the Beavers, holding more capable offenses to zero or one goal has generally been their only offense. So far this season, Bemidji State has netted more than one goal in only three conference games.

Still, Minnesota respects the Beavers’ defense. Goalkeeper Emily Brookshaw holds a .925 save percentage, and Bemidji State is known to pack the defensive zone to stop shots from reaching the goal.

“They do a really nice job of blocking shots and not allowing a lot of shots to get through,” coach Brad Frost said. “When they do get through, Brookshaw is generally up to the task.”

Brookshaw’s prowess was on full display when the Beavers visited Ridder Arena earlier in the season. In the second game of that series, the Gophers were not able to score until late in the third period despite a recorded 45 shots on goal.

However, Minnesota feels if they can notch a goal early on, the team will settle in and be able to put a few away.

“Brookshaw is an amazing goalie and if she gets hot, she stays hot,” junior defender Rachael Drazan said. “But if we can pop a few early on her, she tends to struggle a little bit.”

To gain the early lead, the Gophers will need to continue capitalizing on power plays. On Saturday against Minnesota State, they were 3-of-7 on the power play. And with the number of penalties for both teams in that game, Minnesota’s special teams proved to be the difference maker.

“You can see video the whole week and you can prepare for what the opponent is going to do on their penalty kill, but ultimately it’s about getting out there and making good choices and winning the battles,” junior forward Gigi Marvin said. “It’s huge for a power play to score a goal because it definitely builds momentum for your team.”

Growing from adversity

Due to costly penalties, the Gophers found themselves in an early two-goal hole Saturday, a position they had not been in since their last loss over two months ago.

Minnesota eventually overcame the deficit with a 4-3 victory, and it proved to play an important role in boosting confidence.

“We haven’t been down in games a whole lot this year,” Frost said. “I was just really proud of the way the kids responded.”

The Gophers can only expect the competition to get tougher, however, so learning to play from behind and in close games may prove to make all the difference down the stretch.

“We know that every game counts,” Marvin said. “And whether we win 5-0 or we win 4-3, like we did last weekend, a win’s a win and we have to keep building on the team’s progress.”

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