Gophers sweep opening weekend

Special teams led Minnesota to wins over Penn State and Boston University.

by Grant Donald

When the Gophers’ schedule came out, head coach Brad Frost noticed a stretch of seven consecutive games against ranked opponents early in the season.

On Saturday, after defeating unranked Penn State the night before, the Gophers started that stretch with a 5-2 victory over No. 6 Boston University.

The Terriers had plenty of opportunities to cut into the lead throughout the game as they went on eight power plays, including two 5-on-3 advantages.

But the Gophers held strong and didn’t allow any power-play goals.

“In the third period, we were down 5-on-3 for almost two minutes again and really played exceptional, blocking shots, doing the little things that are necessary to win hockey games and be successful,” Frost said.

The power play kill was also effective in the Gophers’ 8-0 victory against Penn State. The Nittany Lions came up empty on all four of their power-play opportunities Friday.

While their opponents struggled on the power play, the Gophers had no problem finding the back of the net when they had the man advantage.

Minnesota scored on six of its nine power plays over the weekend, two of which came Saturday.

“We did a lot of [work on the power play]. We knew that could win us some hockey games here in the first weekend or two, and I thought our power play all weekend was tremendous,” Frost said Saturday.

The Gophers played without junior forward Maryanne Menefee.

Menefee recorded 37 points a year ago, and Frost said she didn’t play because of a coach’s decision. He said he would re-evaluate her situation this week.

The Gophers did, however, welcome back redshirt sophomore defenseman Lee Stecklein. Stecklein missed last year to compete in the 2014 Olympics for Team USA.

Stecklein racked up four assists over the weekend.

“I’ve been waiting for this since I played my last game [for the Gophers]. To finally put that jersey back on is what I needed,” Stecklein said.

Boston also welcomed back senior forward and Olympian Marie-Philip Poulin.

Poulin played on the Canadian national team and scored the game-winning goal in overtime to help Canada win the gold medal in Sochi, Russia.

Poulin did not find the same success against the Gophers, as she didn’t record a point.

Gophers junior goaltender Amanda Leveille made 26 saves Saturday night after redshirt freshman Sidney Peters made 15 saves to shut out Penn State in her first collegiate start in goal Friday.

“It was good to get the first [save] under my belt,” Peters said. “You’re out there and the crowd is new [and] everything about the experience is different, so getting that first save was reassuring that I can do this. This is what I’ve been doing my whole life.”

Minnesota now goes on the road to face No. 10 Minnesota-Duluth, a test Frost said he believes his team will be up for.

“We wanted to try and see where we would be at after this weekend because coming into tonight with some young kids playing some big minutes, you just don’t know,” Frost said Saturday. “It doesn’t get any easier. It will be our first road trip into a fun environment and a hostile place.”