Miller earns hat trick as Minnesota skates by Sioux

Austin Cumblad

With the way the Minnesota women’s hockey team found the net this weekend, someone looking at the scoreline may have mistaken it for a football game.

up next

Wcha Final face-off
what: Women’s hockey
when: Time TBA, Saturday
where: Duluth, Minn.

The Gophers displayed complete dominance over North Dakota with wins of 3-1 on Friday and 9-0 on Saturday to advance easily to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Face-Off next weekend in Duluth.

Such commanding victories couldn’t have come at a better time.

Minnesota (2-0-0 postseason) entered the postseason after a somewhat disappointing end to its regular season. A loss and a tie against border rival Wisconsin lost the Gophers the momentum of a 21-game unbeaten streak and nearly lost them the second seed in the WCHA tournament.

But the momentum lost was quickly regained during North Dakota’s (0-2-0) visit to Ridder Arena along with the touch of Minnesota’s top scorers.

After an unusually quiet weekend against the Badgers, junior forward and team points leader Gigi Marvin broke out with two goals and three assists against the Sioux.

And the Gophers’ second leading scorer, senior forward Bobbi Ross, lit the lamp twice on Friday after failing to score when Wisconsin visited.

Yet Minnesota’s most impressive offensive performance came on Saturday from senior defenseman Anya Miller.

The Gophers started their five seniors Saturday night, and apparently four years together on the ice prepared them to score one of the fastest goals in Minnesota women’s hockey history.

After the puck was poked into the offensive zone by forward Whitney Graft, Miller fired a shot from the blue line that caromed off keeper Brittany Kirkham’s stick and slid in just 11 seconds into the game.

Miller was as surprised as anyone that the puck went in.

“It’s always nice at the start of the game to get a few shots on net, so that’s all I was trying to do,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to score or anything but it just happened to trickle in.”

But that was only the start of Miller’s offensive barrage. Two more of her slap shots blew past North Dakota’s keepers as she recorded her first career hat trick.

This is, perhaps, a fitting time for her to get a hat trick, considering the offensive success Miller has found this season. She has 32 points this season, putting her behind only Ohio State’s Tessa Bonhomme for points by a defenseman in the WCHA.

“This year her offensive production has shot through the roof,” coach Brad Frost said. “It’s something we knew she had in her, but she never really embraced.”

Miller was not the only Minnesota player with a career first on Saturday. Freshman forward Terra Rasmussen scored her first collegiate goal as part of a six goal first period by the Gophers, during which they outshot the Sioux 26-6.

But as impressive as Minnesota’s offensive explosion was this weekend, their defensive play was just as strong.

North Dakota was allowed only one shot on net in the first period of Friday’s game and didn’t even manage to put the puck on goal during any of their four power plays on the night.

Those power play chances even included a 6-on-3 when the Sioux pulled their goalie in favor of a three-man advantage.

Outside of the 6-on-3, though, the Gophers held the puck in North Dakota’s zone for nearly the entire game. And when the Sioux did gain possession, they were closed on quickly.

“Any time they did get the puck we didn’t give them a lot of room to do anything with it,” Ross said.