Strong power play creates momentum for Minnesota

Junior defenseman Milica McMillen leads the nation in power-play goals.

Grant Donald

Despite having one of the best power plays in the country, the Gophers left Minneapolis last weekend disappointed in their power-play production.

Minnesota came up empty on all three of its power plays in a surprising 1-0 loss to Bemidji State earlier this month.

However, after scoring three power-play goals in their series against Ohio State last weekend, the Gophers returned as the top scoring power-play unit in the nation.

“When we played Bemidji, our power play ended up costing us a couple games,” senior Meghan Lorence said. “We really focused on the power play during our weeks off and were able to capitalize [against Ohio State].”

So far this season, Minnesota has converted on 35 percent of its power plays, an extraordinary number that head coach Brad Frost attributed to the depth of his team.

“We have two [power-play] units that can score,” Frost said. “When you are locked down to one unit that is putting the majority of the goals in, [it] makes it really difficult.”

Junior defenseman Milica McMillen is arguably Minnesota’s biggest threat on the power play. She leads the country with five power-play goals.

“[McMillen’s] main goals have kind of come from the back door,” Frost said. “She has impeccable timing down there, and she has the ability to finish.”

As a defenseman, McMillen plays a crucial role on both the penalty kill and power play.

While the two units have completely different objectives, McMillen said the impacts of the power play and penalty kill on the game are similar.

“Special teams are a really big part of the game,” McMillen said. “If we score or stop them from scoring, it can really change the momentum of the game.”

Minnesota experienced the momentum shift McMillen alluded to firsthand last Friday against the Buckeyes.

The Gophers came into the second period hanging on to a 1-0 lead. After two successful power plays, Minnesota found itself with a commanding 3-0 lead.

“We talk a lot about just creating momentum off of power plays,” Frost said. “Even if we are just applying pressure, oftentimes we will score soon after that, thanks to the momentum [we] created.”

Senior Rachel Ramsey is another defenseman who plays a crucial role in creating power-play opportunities for the Gophers.

Although she has not recorded a power-play goal this year, her teammates have deflected many of her shots for goals.

“If the production is there and we are scoring goals, I don’t worry about it too much,” Ramsey said. “As long as I am doing something right, I’m happy.”

The few times the Gophers fail to generate any momentum off the power play, Frost said, the other team gains confidence.

“If you don’t score on the power play or you don’t get many good looks … the [opponent] will feed off of the energy created,” Frost said.

However, the power play is only one phase of the game.

“You definitely get down on yourself about not scoring, but obviously, things happen in hockey like that,” Lorence said. “You just have to focus on getting it on your next shift or next power play out.”