Fast start spawns comfortable sweep at Ridder

The Gophers trailed early Friday, but scored four first period goals and never trailed again in a home series against Bemidji State.

Beavers forward Annie Bauerfeld attempts to stop first year Gophers forward Kelly Terry’s breakaway on Saturday at Ridder Arena. The Gophers defeated the Beavers 3-0.

Anthony Kwan

Beavers forward Annie Bauerfeld attempts to stop first year Gophers forward Kelly Terry’s breakaway on Saturday at Ridder Arena. The Gophers defeated the Beavers 3-0.

Nate Gotlieb

After MinnesotaâÄôs 8-0 walloping of St. Cloud State two Fridays ago, head coach Brad Frost said he hoped the Gophers, prone to slow starts this season, could match that high-energy effort with a strong first period the next night.

The Gophers came out flat the next day, however. Though they eventually defeated the Huskies 4-1, it took over a period and a half for Minnesota to get on the scoreboard.

Apparently, the message just needed a week to sink in.

Minnesota scored four goals in the first period against Bemidji State on Friday night, en route to a 4-1 win. The Gophers capped the sweep with a 3-0 victory Saturday, tightening their hold on second place in the WCHA with just one weekend remaining.

Minnesota didnâÄôt score after the first period Friday, but it was the exact type of period Frost had been waiting to see.

âÄúWe had just a tremendous first period,âÄù Frost said. âÄú[We] generated a lot of chances. We were moving our feet, doing a lot of really good things.âÄù

The Gophers have struggled to play consistently in the first period in the 10 games since New YearâÄôs Day. Heading into the weekend, just nine of the GophersâÄô 40 goals in 2011 had come in the first.

Friday had all the makings of another first-period struggle for Minnesota. BSU scored on a penalty shot just 30 seconds into the game, after Megan Bozek was assessed a delay of game penalty for covering the puck in the crease, much to the bewilderment of the Minnesota bench.

âÄúIt was kind of shocking,âÄù junior Jen Schoullis said. âÄúWe hadnâÄôt even been out there 30 seconds, and heâÄôs calling a penalty on us.âÄù

But Minnesota didnâÄôt panic. Schoullis scored a little more than three minutes into the period on a well-executed give-and-go by freshman Amanda Kessel, tying the game and turning the momentum in favor of the Gophers.

Then came the blitz.

The Gophers scored three goals in a 2:54 stretch, starting with sophomore Becky KortumâÄôs goal at 11:32 of the first. Junior Sarah Erickson scored a shift later, and Schoullis capped the early offensive explosion with her second goal of the evening.

Alana McElhinney started in net for BSU Friday in place of 2009-10 WCHA co-player of the year, Zuzana Tomcikova, who shut the Gophers out earlier this season. Tomcikova was scheduled for a night off after playing in an international tournament last week.

Tomcikova replaced McElinney after the GopherâÄôs fourth goal. She saved all 24 shots she faced the rest of the game.

But the damage had already been done, in large part by MinnesotaâÄôs first line of Schoullis, Erickson and Kessel. The trio, which has 25 points over the last four games, found passing lanes and was able to draw penalties and create chances in front of the net all game.

âÄúThey were really making the puck sweat tonight,âÄù Frost said.

 With Tomcikova starting in goal Saturday, BSU held the Gophers to one goal through two periods.

Junior Anne Schleper gave the Gophers a 2-0 lead with a power play goal midway through the third, and freshman Kelly Terry added an empty-netter late. Sophomore goalie Noora Raty saved 34 shots, breaking the schoolâÄôs single-season shutout record with nine.

âÄúSheâÄôs consistently the best goalie on the ice every night,âÄù Frost said.

Raty has shut out every WCHA team except Wisconsin and North Dakota. SheâÄôll get a chance against UND next weekend, as the Gophers try and wrap up a second place finish.