Balanced scoring helps Gophers sweep Mercyhurst

Eight Gophers scored in the two-game series.

Redshirt junior Sarah Potomak eyes her opponent during the game against Mercyhurst. The women's hockey team beat Mercyhurst 4-2 in the season opener on Friday, Sept. 28 at Ridder Arena.

Tony Saunders

Redshirt junior Sarah Potomak eyes her opponent during the game against Mercyhurst. The women’s hockey team beat Mercyhurst 4-2 in the season opener on Friday, Sept. 28 at Ridder Arena.

Erik Nelson

It didn’t take long for No. 3 Minnesota to make a positive impression in its new season.

Minnesota (2-0-0) swept No. 10 Mercyhurst (0-2-0) this weekend at Ridder Arena, outscoring the Lakers 9-2 in both games. The Gophers defeated the Lakers 5-0 on Saturday.

In Saturday’s game, goaltender Sydney Scobee earned the shutout, stopping all 17 shots in her Minnesota debut. Scobee spent the past two seasons with Vermont. 

“Playing for this team is a dream,” Scobee said. “With the team in front of me, I’m confident. They play so well in front of me.”

Right winger Grace Zumwinkle opened the scoring at 12:17 of the first period. Zumwinkle tapped the puck into an open net after Lakers goaltender Kennedy Blair lost her position trying to stop a wrap-around by center Taylor Wente. Wente and left winger Nicole Schammel recorded assists. It was one of two goals Zumwinkle scored on Saturday.

Zumwinkle said it was beneficial for head coach Brad Frost to reunite the line of Zumwinkle, Schammel and Wente that played together last season.

“We see the ice well,” Zumwinkle said. “[Schammel] does a nice job of possessing the puck and finding openings for Wente and I. Wente’s a fast skater and finds the puck, which gives us the opportunity to shoot and create offense.”

Frost said Minnesota played a much better game on Saturday than its debut — the team had 43 shots on-goal.

“The pressure that we were able to apply in the first carried on into the second,” Frost said. “Non-conference games are so important down the road and at the end.”

Minnesota begins season with a win

The fans at Ridder Arena on Friday were in a festive mood. Minnesota honored its 2018 Olympians as well as last season’s team, which won the 2018 WCHA championship. 

Center Kelly Pannek made an immediate impact offensively as Minnesota defeated Mercyhurst 4-2. Pannek scored one goal and recorded an assist in her first game for the Gophers since March 17, 2017.

“Once the puck dropped, it was fun to get back out there and be with the team,” Pannek said. “Today was fun and exciting.”

At 11:29 of the first period, Mercyhurst drew first blood when right winger Emma Nuutinen scored on a power play, giving the Lakers a 1-0 lead. 

Minnesota evened the score at 8:22 in the second period when a slap shot from defender Patti Marshall got past Blair.

Late in the period, Pannek made a backhand pass to right winger Amy Potomak, who was left alone in the slot. She beat Blair with a wrist shot at 18:29 of the period, giving Minnesota a 2-1 lead. It was Amy Potomak’s first collegiate goal. Sarah Potomak, Amy Potomak’s sister, recorded the secondary assist.

Amy Potomak said having her sister assist on her first collegiate goal is a dream come true.

“She did such an awesome job on that play,” Amy Potomak said. “She was strong on it the entire time until [Pannek] came in, supported it and gave me a phenomenal pass. All I had to do was tap it in, but Sarah’s work ethic down low and [Pannek’s] vision was phenomenal.”

Goaltender Alex Gulstene stopped 21 of 23 shots for her first win of the season. 

Gulstene said she communicated clearly with the defense.

“They saved my butt a couple times,” Gulstene said. “We talked a lot, and I made sure that [the] defense knew where I was and that I knew where they were.”

Minnesota’s next series will be Friday-Saturday against U.S. Olympic star goaltender Maddie Rooney and No. 9 Minnesota-Duluth (2-0-0) at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. The first game will begin at 7:07 p.m. and the second game will begin at 3:07 p.m.

Frost said playing the Bulldogs will be a challenge because Rooney will be in net.

“You’ve got to take away her eyes,” Frost said. “We’ve got to pressure her as much as possible. It’s a daunting task, but we’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”