Gophers sweep weekend series in Erie

by Zach Eisendrath

Minnesota’s women’s hockey team knew it would have its hands full with No. 8 Mercyhurst (3-3-0) this weekend.

But the team never expected to compete in the hostile environment that surrounded it in Erie, Pa.

The Gophers (5-1-0) – ranked fourth in the latest U.S. College Hockey Online rankings – came away with two distinctively different victories at Mercyhurst Ice Center.

Minnesota swept the weekend set; winning a 1-0 defensive battle Friday and mustering 4-2 come-from-behind victory Saturday.

“This was a real gut check for us,” coach Laura Halldorson said.

Said goaltender Brittony Chartier about the big weekend crowds, “I never played against a crowd that enormous. We had to pull together and we did.”

Saturday, the Lakers scored two first-period goals, one at the beginning and one in the closing stages of the stanza, energizing the raucous crowd early on.

In a hole after one period, Minnesota remained optimistic.

“I don’t think for one second anyone on the team thought we would lose at any point in the game,” sophomore forward Erica McKenzie said.

Chartier said she wasn’t worried either.

“Actually I felt pretty relaxed,” Chartier said about the team’s 2-0 deficit. “We have a lot of confidence in each other.”

Freshman standout Gigi Marvin broke Minnesota’s scoring drought early in the second, rebounding teammate Anya Miller’s slap shot attempt to convert on the power play.

Sophomore forward Bobbi Ross had her best game of the season. Ross recorded the game-tying goal midway through the second. She also had an assist in Sunday’s game.

“Putting the puck in the net and points on the board is the best way to quiet a crowd,” sophomore forward Erica McKenzie said.

Interestingly, it was McKenzie who silenced the crowd not once but twice in the later stages of the game.

McKenzie gave the Gophers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish at the 11:39 mark in second period.

After captain Andrea Nichols’ initial shot attempt, McKenzie fired in the rebound. Nichols and Marvin were credited with the assist.

McKenzie scored an empty netter in the final moments to provide the game’s 4-2 final.

“She’s got a real knack for the net,” Halldorson said of McKenzie’s weekend. “She was great.”

After her slow start, Chartier locked up the net; shutting down Mercyhurst’s last 21 shot attempts. She finished the game with 28 saves.

Chartier was stellar behind net on Friday night as well. Chartier recorded her third shutout of the season to lead the Gophers past the Lakers 1-0.

“She had some unbelievable saves,” Halldorson said. “She was rock solid. She shut the door again.”

It didn’t come easily.

Chartier was tested all night by Mercyhurst, blocking nine shots in the first, nine in the second and 12 in the third. For the night, Chartier deflected away 30 shots on goal.

McKenzie scored Minnesota’s lone goal.

After a scoreless first period, McKenzie put back in Marvin’s shot attempt at the 11:52 mark of the second, her second power play goal of the season.

Halldorson said she was impressed with her team’s effort.

“I am really satisfied with the way we competed this weekend,” coach Halldorson said.” It was the best we’ve played all season. The grit we showed Ö the character we showed, it was a step in the right direction.”

McKenzie said she was equally pleased with the weekend.

“It was exciting to play in that rowdy atmosphere,” McKenzie said.

“That’s what we play for. This weekend couldn’t have ended a better way.”