Buckeyes are the latest victims

Minnesota drubbed Ohio State 10-0 a day before calling Sunday’s 5-1 win a “tough race.”

Bridget Haeg

If Minnesota’s women’s hockey team was worried about opponents catching on to its power play, it wasn’t apparent over the weekend.

The first-ranked Gophers (10-0-0, 10-0-0 WCHA) scored seven power-play and two short-handed goals in sweeping the Buckeyes (5-5-0, 5-5-0) 10-0 Saturday and 5-1 Sunday.

As many expected, the Gophers will head into an off weekend undefeated with series sweeps of North Dakota, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State, Minnesota State-Mankato and now the Buckeyes under their belts.

Despite 15 penalties on the weekend, Minnesota was able to effectively shut down Ohio’s power play, which ranked ninth in the nation.

Gophers coach Laura Halldorson credited Minnesota’s power play success with playing smart hockey this weekend.

“They just made the plays, and they took what was given to them,” Halldorson said.

Or maybe more.

Senior forward Kelly Stephens had seven points in the series, including four goals Saturday.

“I was a little overdue, and I had a lot of help,” Stephens said. “We just moved the puck well.”

Junior forward Krissy Wendell also had seven points in the two games with a hat trick Saturday.

Junior forward Natalie Darwitz had eight points in the two games, but she did more than rack up goals for herself.

On Sunday, she assisted on both of sophomore defender Lyndsay Wall’s goals.

“I trust Darwitz. I know that if she passes it hard to me, I’m not going to shoot it,” Wall said. “But if she gives me a nice easy pass, I pretty much just put my head down and shoot the puck.”

Wall also helped on the defensive end, as the Gophers kept the Buckeyes to just 33 shots on the weekend while taking 98 of their own.

“Even though the score was one-sided, they had some great chances,” Halldorson said. “(Goaltender Jody) Horak had to come up with some big saves, and we just wanted to limit their scoring chances.”

Though they outscored the Buckeyes 15-1 in the two games, the Gophers said their opponents adjusted to Minnesota’s speed in the second game, holding the Gophers to only one goal in the first period.

“I thought they came out a little tougher (Sunday),” Halldorson said. “It was a contest. We were in a tough race.”

The race brought Horak into the mix, but she responded with solid saves.

In the end, Horak allowed one goal on the weekend. It was only her third goal allowed this season, and she improved her season record to 7-0-0.

After Sunday’s game, the Gophers said the second-game challenge was a good thing.

“I said before the third period, ‘We need this, we need to be in close games where it tests our character and our work ethic,’ ” Halldorson said. “I thought we passed the test today.”