Gophers women start off the season 2-0

No. 3 Minnesota won two weekend games over Syracuse.

John Hageman

The Gopher womenâÄôs hockey team started the season with some late-game drama and two wins against Syracuse over the weekend at Ridder Arena. No. 3 Minnesota won the season opener Friday, 4-3, despite losing center Sarah Erickson 12 seconds into the contest for game misconduct after she was called for a check from behind. Junior Emily West scored the first two goals of the game to give the Gophers the early lead, and the team shut the Orange out until halfway through the second period. Minnesota held a 2-1 lead going into the third period, but Syracuse tied it up when sophomore Janelle Malcolm scored a power play goal in the seventh minute of the period. The Gophers came right back and scored less than a minute later as senior forward Brittany Francis netted one to give the team a 3-2 lead. Syracuse was not done yet. The Orange tied the game up 3-3 when Malcolm scored her second goal of the period with 10:30 left. But it would be the Gophers who would have the final say as senior forward Chelsey Jones ripped the puck past Syracuse goalie Lucy Schoedel from just inside the blue line with only 2:58 left in the game. It was MinnesotaâÄôs only power play goal of the game. âÄúIt was just a great shot from the defensive point of view,âÄù Jones said. âÄúI was just able to get my stick on it and luckily it went in.âÄù FridayâÄôs game was quite the rollercoaster and Gophers head coach Brad Frost said he was glad to see it end in victory. âÄúThere really were a lot of swings in emotion there,âÄù Frost said. âÄúTo get the game winner late on the power play was awesome.âÄù Despite a number of standout performances for the Gophers, Frost said West was the best player on the ice Friday. âÄúShe knows that sheâÄôs going to have to step up for us,âÄù Frost said. âÄúWhen we needed a jump start she started us. When we needed to get that 2-0 lead, she did that as well.âÄù The win Friday marks the 12th time the Gophers have won the season opener in their 13 years. Minnesota got out to an early lead again Sunday as sophomore defender Anne Schleper scored two power play goals within a minute of each other less than halfway through the first period. Syracuse answered with a goal of their own when sophomore Megan Skelly intercepted a pass in front of the Minnesota net and deflected a shot off a Gophers skate and into the net halfway through the second period to bring the Orange within one. But the Gophers were able to put Syracuse away with two goals from Jones in the second and third period, helping the Gophers claim a 4-1 victory and begin the season 2-0. Finnish freshman goalie Noora Raty started for the Gophers on Sunday and had 17 saves, giving the team a little insurance. âÄúNoora is just so calm,âÄù Frost said. âÄúIt just kind of helps our defense [and] our forwards continue to be poised and take a few chances because they know she is going be there to bail them out.âÄù Going into the rest of the year, Jones said that the forwards will have to continue to step up their play. âÄúAs you could see, our defense is very solid,âÄù Jones said. âÄúTodayâÄôs game was really won on the blue line and in the net.âÄù The Gophers outshot Syracuse 67-36 despite spending four fewer minutes on power plays between the two games. Next week, Minnesota heads to Columbus to play Ohio State on Friday and Saturday.