Unbeaten streak extends to 21

The Gophers earned yet another sweep, and moved to within one of the WCHA leader.

Austin Cumblad

In a decade the Minnesota women’s hockey team has racked up three national championships, three Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament championships and four regular season conference championships. But no Gophers team has ever had a hot streak like this.

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wisconsin
what: Women’s hockey
when: 3 p.m., Saturday
where: Ridder Arena

With wins of 4-2 and 5-2 over St. Cloud State on Friday and Saturday, No. 4 ranked Minnesota has now won 17 straight in the WCHA and is unbeaten in its last 21 games.

And the Gophers (25-4-3 overall, 21-4-1 WCHA) show no signs of stopping. The sweep pulled them to within one point of conference leader Minnesota-Duluth with just one series left for both teams in the regular season.

Everything about Minnesota’s play makes it seem like the team is ready to add another couple banners to the already-crowded rafters of Ridder Arena.

After failing to score in the first period of both games, the Gophers responded with three goals in the second both nights.

In Friday’s game, Minnesota bagged all three in less than 10 minutes and had control of the game until St. Cloud sophomore forward Caitlin Hogan found the net late in the period.

The Huskies pulled to within one early in the third but sophomore forward Brittany Francis regained the Gophers’ one goal cushion just two minutes later.

Minnesota has been responding to goals quickly for some time now, a trend that coach Brad Frost is encouraged by.

“We’re going to give up goals, but the question is how we are going to respond to them,” he said. “Again, tonight scoring right away after they closed within one to make it a two goal lead was huge for us.”

On Saturday, St. Cloud (16-11-5, 11-11-4) jumped out early on freshman forward Courtney Josefson’s first career goal. Minnesota was unable to answer until senior forward Whitney Graft nabbed a shorthanded goal two minutes into the second.

The Huskies took their second lead of the night on a power play goal from junior forward Amy Currier, but it was again short-lived as Gophers’ senior forward Erica McKenzie netted a power play goal of her own just 53 seconds later.

In the third period, junior defenseman Rachael Drazan, who played despite suffering a neck injury from a cross-check Friday night, banged home Minnesota’s second shorthanded goal of the game.

Notching two shorthanded goals was big for the Gophers especially because of the penalties they racked up in the series.

Minnesota players trekked to the penalty box nine times both nights, and St. Cloud put away three goals on 16 power-play opportunities.

Physical play is common when the Gophers and the Huskies meet, and emotions seemed to run high both nights.

“St. Cloud is kind of a chippy team and the referee called a ton of penalties this weekend as he did when we played them earlier, Graft said. “I think it is sometimes hard to keep your composure.”

St. Cloud’s physicality put them in the penalty box quite a bit too, however, and Minnesota continued its success on the power play, lighting the lamp three times on thirteen chances.

“The power play is big,” senior forward Bobbi Ross said. “It not only wins games but it makes teams think twice before they start taking penalties on you.”