After finishing 2010 with seven wins in their last eight games, itâÄôs easy to imagine why the Gophers were eager to start the second half of their season in the opening days of 2011.
Behind solid performances by sophomore goalie Noora Raty and senior Laura May, the Gophers swept Minnesota State Saturday night with a 5-1 win, climbing into sole possession of third place in the WCHA.
Raty stopped 51 of the 52 shots she faced and shut out MSU Friday in a 4-0 win. May scored three goals on the weekend, while freshmen Amanda Kessel and junior Jen Schoullis each added three points.
âÄúAfter a three-week break, you just never know how the players are going to come out,âÄù head coach Brad Frost said Saturday. âÄúBut I thought they came out with some good jump.âÄù
The Gophers, who lost five of their first eight conference games, started climbing the WCHA standings with a sweep of the Mavericks Nov. 19 and 20. Conversely, MSU had lost eight of their past nine entering the weekend, scoring only seven goals in that span and slipping into seventh place in the WCHA.
May, held scoreless for the first twenty games this season, scored the final goal Friday and added two more Saturday, including a crucial goal midway through the second period.
When the Mavericks cut the GophersâÄô lead down to one after an early second-period goal, May recaptured the momentum with a wrist shot that clanked off the right post and into the net, giving Minnesota a 3-1 lead.
For May and linemates freshman Bethany Brausen and senior Terra Rasmussen, it was a relief to finally break through on the score sheet.
After producing just one goal in the first twenty games, they recorded five points on MayâÄôs three goals and BrausenâÄôs two assists.
âÄúIt felt unbelievable compared to whatâÄôs been going on for me,âÄù said May, who scored 12 goals last season. âÄúIt was definitely great to finally find the back of the net a few times there, and I hope I can just keep that rolling.âÄù
Added Brausen: âÄúThroughout the whole season, weâÄôve been working really hardâÄ¦The passes (today) were going tape-to-tape, and we were finally capitalizing on our chances, which is always a big plus. We just really moved the puck well and tried to get to open, and it worked out well for us tonight.
While the GophersâÄô top two lines have accumulated a majority of the goals this season, Frost welcomes offensive contributions from the third line.
âÄúWe know our top two lines are going to score, and as long as our third line can play well defensively, weâÄôre going to be fine,âÄù Frost said. âÄúBut if they can chip a puck in here or there, thatâÄôs only going to help us.âÄù
For the Gophers, this weekend was the first of many second meetings with WCHA opponents.
But that doesnâÄôt mean it gets any easier, according to Brausen. âÄúWhereas you know how they play and stuff, their also going to be improving how theyâÄôre playing as well,âÄù she said.
The Gophers get their second chance at Minnesota-Duluth next weekend, after suffering a sweep at the hands of the Bulldogs in late October.
âÄúWe all agree we need to be better, with the Bulldogs coming in town next weekend,âÄù Frost said.