Gophers fall to U.S. National Team

John Hageman

 In front of the biggest crowd in Ridder Arena all year, the No. 2 Minnesota women’s hockey team gave the U.S. Women’s National team a run for their money Tuesday, but ultimately fell 8-5 in exhibition play.

Senior Kelli Blankenship led the Gophers, scoring a hat trick in the defeat. The five goals allowed by U.S. National Team was the most by any team other than Canada on the Quest Tour.

Team USA got off to an early lead until Alexandra Zebro broke put the game at 2-1 with a power-play goal. The Gophers were down 3-1 going into the second period as Hilary Knight added another goal at 15:24.

It seemed the U.S. National Team was en route to another easy victory, but Minnesota flipped the script on the Olympians in the second period. Junior Emily West scored an unassisted breakaway goal to put the Gophers within one. But former Gopher Monique Lamoureux put the game at 4-2 at 7:48 in the second. Freshman goalie Noora Raty was pulled in favor of junior Jenny Lura. Blankenship then scored her first two goals of the night, tying the game going into the final period.

For the first half of the third period, the game stayed competitive, with the possibility of the Gophers upsetting Team USA seeming like a very real possibility. But the U.S. National Team rattled off three unanswered goals to put the game out of reach for Minnesota. 

The Gophers were out-shot 56-21 in the loss, with Raty tallying 29 saves and Lura tallying 19 saves.

Minnesota will resume its regular season play in Bemidji against Bemidji State this weekend.