Chartier pitches Saturday shutout to gain split in Duluth

by Zach Eisendrath

DULUTH ” After a tough Friday night loss, Minnesota’s women’s hockey team still found a way to come back to campus on the upswing after a weekend up north.

Despite falling in decisive fashion to in-state rival and No. 4 Duluth (15-4-1, 17-4-1 WCHA) 4-2 on Friday night, the Gophers rebounded for an impressive 2-0 win Saturday to split the series and come away with newfound self-assurance.

“We came out a little flat the first period of the first game,” junior forward and captain Andrea Nichols said. “But we knew we had to pick it up after that. We did, and it worked out for us.

“(Splitting the series) boosts our confidence about 10 times of what it was,” coach Laura Halldorson said, walking out of the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center with a victory over a team ahead of them in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.

Currently, the Gophers stand third in the WCHA, eight points behind co-leaders Duluth and Wisconsin.

“To know that we can beat a team of Duluth’s caliber at this point in the season is very encouraging,” she said. “I see some of the things we’ve been working on start to pay off.”

Saturday, the fifth-ranked Gophers (16-7-1, 11-6-1 WCHA) did what they have done well all season. Minnesota grabbed the early advantage when Nichols scored the game’s first goal 17:23 into the first period. Sophomores Whitney Graft and Jenelle Philiphczyk assisted on the score.

The Gophers managed to pull off only three shot attempts in the period, but Halldorson said she wasn’t overly concerned.

“It was weird after that first period only getting three shots, but having one go in ” that’s why I don’t put too much emphasis on shots on goal,” Halldorson said. “Obviously, the number that really matters is how many go in.”

Nothing changed entering the third period as Minnesota and Duluth each squandered potential scoring opportunities in the second.

The game continued to be a defensive clinic until the latter stages of the final period when Becky Wacker took Graft’s pass and scored on Duluth goaltender Riita Schaublin with nine minutes remaining in the game.

Brittony Chartier continued her sensational freshman campaign, stopping all 35 Bulldogs shot attempts en route to her fifth shutout of the season.

“I thought it was a tremendous game by Brittony,” Halldorson said. “We certainly needed her today ” well-deserved shutout for her.”

Friday night, the Gophers had to deal with a problem they hadn’t faced all season: losing on the road.

Although Minnesota outshot the Bulldogs 38-23, Duluth jumped on the Gophers early and Minnesota could not recover, in turn snapping Minnesota’s nine-game unbeaten streak away from Ridder Arena.

Freshman goaltender Kim Hanlon allowed two quick first-period goals while the Gophers only managed five shot attempts in the first 20 minutes of action.

Minnesota’s special teams, which were exceptional Saturday, also struggled on the night, allowing the Bulldogs to convert on three of four power-play chances. The Gophers failed to convert all but one of their six opportunities.

Duluth put the game on at the end of the second and the early stages of the third period when junior Noemie Marin stretched the Bulldogs lead to three goals midway through the second and freshman Sara O’Toole put the puck past Hanlon just 2:34 into the final stanza.

Philiphczyk was the one bright spot for the Gophers on the night. She scored the Gophers only two goals against the otherwise outstanding Schaublin. She picked up the win with 36 saves.

Nonetheless, Minnesota headed out of Duluth on a high note.

“It feels good to win the second game,” Nichols said.

Said Chartier, “It’s more than a single win; I think it sets the tone for the rest of the season.”