Gophers win two to stay unbeaten at home

Minnesota is now 11-0-2 at Ridder Arena after sweeping Minnesota State.

Saturday is supposed to be relaxing, but don’t tell that to the Minnesota women’s hockey team.

After a comfortable 3-1 win over Minnesota State on Friday night, the Gophers had to overcome an early two goal deficit and hold off a desperate final effort from the Mavericks on Saturday to notch a 4-3 victory and earn the sweep.

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bemidji state
what: Women’s hockey
when: 2 p.m., Friday
where: Bemidji

With a pair of wins this weekend, Minnesota extended its unbeaten streak to 15 and has now swept five straight Western Collegiate Hockey Association opponents.

The Gophers (19-4-3 overall, 15-4-1 WCHA) may be familiar with success against conference opponents, but they found themselves in an unfamiliar position during the first period of Saturday’s game – behind.

Before that, the last time Minnesota trailed was on Jan. 6 against Wayne State. The Gophers leveled the score only a minute later and ended up tying the game.

Minnesota State (6-17-1, 5-14-1) jumped out to the early lead Saturday largely because of costly penalties by the Gophers.

Just over a minute into the game, junior defenseman Melanie Gagnon received a five minute major penalty for checking from behind and was ejected for game misconduct.

Although Minnesota’s penalty kill was quite effective, allowing only two shots on goal, one of those shots found the back of the net.

Less than four minutes later, junior defenseman Rachael Drazan was called for checking, and shortly after that senior forward Jenelle Philipczyk was whistled for slashing, giving Minnesota State a five-on-three advantage.

Six seconds into the five-on-three, the Mavericks’ Ashley Young scored, making it 2-0 just 10 minutes into the game.

The momentum seemed to be squarely with Minnesota State, but the Gophers refused to panic.

“To be down 2-0 early wasn’t how we drew it up, but I’m really proud of our team and the way they composed themselves and stayed disciplined,” coach Brad Frost said.

It seemed Minnesota would end the first period down two, but they earned a power play with just under 1:30 left and senior forward Bobbi Ross slid a shot past Mavericks’ keeper Britni Kehler 30 seconds later, bringing the game to within one at the end of the first.

“We knew we had to put something away on that power play,” Ross said. “It sure made things different with the two goal lead they took right at the beginning of the game. It showed us right away that there was no room for error on our part.”

That goal ignited the Gophers’ offense and they came out firing in the second period, peppering Kehler with 15 shots on net during the period and bagging three goals in less than five minutes.

Taking that two goal cushion into the third, Minnesota seemed content to drop back and defend their lead. This tactic nearly backfired when Minnesota State scored with a little over five minutes left in the game, but the Gophers were able to hang on.

“They got one at the end and made it interesting but we just played hard and found a way to win,” senior forward Erica McKenzie, who had three assists in Saturday’s game, said.

Again Minnesota received scoring contributions from a variety of players. Eleven players scored at least one point in the series, and sophomore defender Michelle Maunu notched her first goal of the season in the second period Saturday.

In addition, the Gophers remained perfect at home, improving to 11-0-2. Though they’ve proven they can win anywhere, the team loves playing at Ridder.

“We’ve got the best crowd in the whole country I think,” junior goalkeeper Kim Hanlon said. “It’s the biggest crowd and when everyone’s here supporting you and we’ve got the band and everyone’s going nuts, it’s a lot easier to play.”