No. 3 Gophers advance to the WCHA Final Faceoff

The Gophers swept St. Cloud State in the opening round of the WCHA tournament to reach the semifinals.

Gophers Forward Taylor Heise lines up a pass at Ridder Arena on Friday, Feb. 28. The Gophers scored two power-play goals on the way to a 4-2 victory over St. Cloud State.

Jasmin Kemp

Gophers Forward Taylor Heise lines up a pass at Ridder Arena on Friday, Feb. 28. The Gophers scored two power-play goals on the way to a 4-2 victory over St. Cloud State.

Matthew Kennedy

The Gophers women’s hockey team swept the St. Cloud State Huskies this weekend, keeping their hopes of regaining the WCHA Championship alive. 

If they win two games next weekend, they will be crowned the WCHA champions and will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. If they stumble in either game, they will go home empty-handed for the second year in a row, awaiting word on if they will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

Gophers come from behind in game one, winning 4-2

Each team started quickly on Friday. Both the Gophers’ and the Huskies’ first shots of the game went in the net. Minnesota defenseman Emily Brown sniped one for the Gophers from behind the blue line. Seconds later, Dana Rasmussen of St. Cloud State slipped the puck past the pads of WCHA Goaltender of the Year Sydney Scobee. St. Cloud State scored again three minutes later with a nice shot from Olivia Hanson and that made the game 2-1. 

The Huskies’ momentum didn’t last past the first period. 

The next two periods featured the Gophers dominating in every area. By the end of the second, the Gophers tied the game up with a power-play goal by Alex Woken. 

Then in the third, Amy Potomak scored a power-play goal to take the lead. Later, Katie Robinson scored her second goal of the season to stretch the lead to 4-2. The Gophers outshot the Huskies 56-17. 

Gophers advance to the Final Faceoff with a 7-3 win

Another fast start powered Minnesota in game two. The Gophers scored two goals in the opening minute as captain Patti Marshall netted the first and Grace Zumwinkle added the second.  

Up 2-1 in the second period, Zumwinkle scored another. However, St. Cloud State had an answer as Klara Hymlarova scored to make the game 3-2. 

Scobee struggled throughout the series. Hymlarova’s goal was just the sixth shot Scobee had faced on the night. In total, she stopped 11 of the Huskies’ 14 shots, a troubling sight for the Gophers at this point in the season. 

“She’s just got to stay in it mentally and take it one shot at a time,” head coach Brad Frost said. “It’s hard to stay engaged when you stand for minutes at a time without seeing a shot with how well we were playing offensively this series. I expect in the next series for her to get back in her usual groove.”

Luckily, the Gophers offense kept scoring. Back-to-back goals from the Potomak sisters led to a 5-2 advantage, then Zumwinkle scored her 25th goal of the season to secure a hat trick. 

Minnesota will host Ohio State in the WCHA semifinals at Ridder Arena next Saturday. Unlike the St. Cloud State series, Saturday’s matchup is an elimination game. If the Gophers win, they’ll play in the championship on Sunday. 

“They are a very tough opponent,” Frost said of Ohio State. “Being with us in the top five in the NCAA rankings most of the season makes our next game a good challenge. We will have to be on our A-game.”