Renewed offensive punch leads Gophers past Beavers

Monica Wright

In a WCHA season that shows Minnesota isn’t part of a two-team league anymore — the Gophers were beaten by an unranked team and Wisconsin came within one point of overtaking first place — last weekend’s sweep against Bemidji State at Mariucci Arena was a nice throwback to the Gophers’ demolition days.
Toppling the Beavers 9-1 and 8-4 — the most points Minnesota scored in a series this season — coach Laura Halldorson said that while the old-school pummeling was positive, they shouldn’t consider it a trend.
“It’s always better to have a cushion than a nail-biter,” Halldorson said. “But mistakes we got away with tonight will cost us against a better team.”
At first it appeared that Bemidji State might be that better team, as Amber Fryklund opened Friday night’s first period with the first goal of the game.
But that was all it took for the Gophers to open up their shooting gallery with three goals, two within 40 seconds of each other.
Though the Gophers suffered from a second period slump in which only junior Tracy Engstrom scored, the third period saw five more goals — giving both Nadine Muzerall and La Toya Clarke hat tricks for the evening.
Despite the big win, Halldorson said her team’s inability to play three strong periods was troubling.
“Our first period was really strong and I was happy to see that,” Halldorson said.
“But in the second we weren’t, and we need to work on getting three good periods out of a game.”
Halldorson’s point was proven once again on Saturday.
The Gophers came out strong with three goals in the first period but went downhill quickly in the second.
Though Minnesota started the second period with two goals, the Beavers popped in three consecutive goals of their own on rookie goaltender Stephanie Johnson.
Muzerall, who had a goal and two assists Saturday, said the tendency to cite Johnson’s inexperience was an inaccurate way to assess the blame.
“None of those goals were Stephanie’s fault, they were the team’s breakdowns both mentally and physically,” Muzerall said.
“She had a lot of good saves, and after she was scored on she took a point-blank shot and stopped it, which proved she can bounce back.”
The rest of the team also bounced back with three more goals in the third period, giving seven different Gophers goals in the game.
Although Bemidji State coach Ruthann Cantile said her team had a strong rally in the second period, they ran short of energy in the third.
“We needed a puck in the net. Once we had that, the momentum was triggered,” Cantile said. “But going into the third we lost our intensity.”
With 66 shots on goal and a penalty-free game for Minnesota on Saturday, Halldorson said it was easy to ignore the inconsistency problems the Gophers are having.
And with their biggest series of the season on the horizon — the Gophers travel to New Hampshire to take on top-ranked Dartmouth this weekend — the problem will need to be fixed fast.
“We’ve seen the ups and downs of this league,” Halldorson said.
“In the end I think the team that is the most consistent is going to be the one who comes out on top.”

Monica Wright covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]