Top line leads Gophers to dominating sweep

Minnesota’s top line combined for 18 points in the two victories.

Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt handles the puck against the Mavericks at Ridder Arena on Saturday. The University beat MSUM with a final score of 5-1.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt handles the puck against the Mavericks at Ridder Arena on Saturday. The University beat MSUM with a final score of 5-1.

by Grant Donald

After shredding Minnesota State-Mankato’s defense during the regular season, the Gophers top line continued its dominance over Mankato during this weekend’s postseason series.

Juniors Hannah Brandt and Maryanne Menefee and sophomore Dani Cameranesi combined for 18 points over the course of the two games, with Brandt recording a hat trick in Friday’s 10-0 rout. Menefee led the way Saturday with two goals in the 5-1 victory.

“For some reason our line seems to have the best chemistry when we play [Mankato],” Brandt said. “I guess I needed a hat trick to match what [my linemates] did [earlier this year].”

Brandt’s hat trick was the Gophers’ third of the year against Mankato, with the other two coming from Cameranesi and Menefee.

But while their hat tricks were completed in the third period, Brandt had hers all wrapped up during the beginning of the second period thanks in part to scoring on two of her first three shifts to give Minnesota an early 2-0 lead.

“The message tonight was ‘no more slow starts.’ We don’t have time for it,” head coach Brad Frost said. “I don’t know if it was because of the playoffs, but Hannah and the top line came out and set the tone [Friday].”

With the quick start behind it, Minnesota was able to coast to a 10-goal victory.

The Gophers failed to get off to a quick start Saturday. The game was still scoreless after the first period, and the Mavericks outshot Minnesota 15-3.

“Getting outshot 15-3 against any opponent is not good,” Frost said. “[At the intermission] we just talked about our passion and being all in or not. It was mandatory that they picked it up.”

Menefee responded to her coach’s demands with two goals within two minutes of one another.

On the first goal, Menefee redirected a pass into the net from sophomore Megan Wolfe. Wolfe recorded two assists Saturday on top of her two assists Friday.

“Megan is actually one of my favorite defensive players that is involved [on offense] on our team,” Menefee said. “She has been doing great for us lately, so hopefully she continues it throughout the playoffs.”

While Minnesota continued to stretch its lead throughout Saturday’s game, junior Amanda Leveille kept Mankato scoreless. After not seeing much action in her two periods Friday, Leveille made 29 saves in two and a half periods Saturday, including an unbelievable stop where she snagged a puck behind her for a glove save.

Senior Shyler Sletta relieved Leveille once the score was 5-0. Heading into the game, Sletta had yet to allow a goal in her Gophers career. She was unable to keep her clean record, as Mankato sneaked one by.

“[Shyler] is someone who came in and wasn’t guaranteed one minute, but she still wanted to come and be a Gopher,” Frost said. “It was unfortunate that the goal went in, but I think the opportunity for her to play one more time was pretty special.”

With the series sweep, the Gophers now advance to the WCHA Final Face-Off semifinals next weekend where they’ll look to get off to a fast start like they did Friday.

“When you are trying to end a team’s season, you have to get on them right away and give them no hope,” Brandt said. “That’ll be the key all postseason.”