Gophers continue to dominate Huskies

Brian Deutsch

The fourth-ranked Minnesota women’s hockey team used points from 10 different players to sweep two games against St. Cloud State this weekend in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

The Gophers came from behind on Friday to win 5-2 at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud before returning to Ridder Arena for a 4-1 win Saturday.

Although Friday afternoon’s game started out slowly with only one goal in the first 39 minutes of play, the conclusion was anything but slow.

After junior defenseman Anya Miller put the Gophers up a goal one minute into the second period, the two teams combined for six goals in the final 21 minutes of the game.

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Bemidji State
WHEN: 7:07 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1
WHERE: Bemidji

The Huskies looked as if they were going to double their all-time win total against the Gophers with two when they scored two goals in just over a minute and a half, spanning the end of the second and beginning of the third period.

“We were playing well, but yet we weren’t ahead,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “We just had to hang in there and stay calm.”

The persistence paid off as four straight goals by Minnesota (10-3-1 overall, 7-2-1 WCHA) spoiled St. Cloud State’s plans and gave the Gophers their 30th win over Huskies.

“In the first couple periods, the pucks just weren’t going in the net for us,” junior forward Whitney Graft said. “In the third period, we just kept putting shots on the net and then they started falling in.”

Unlike the opener, Saturday’s game saw the Gophers take a commanding lead early and never look back.

Senior forward Becky Wacker, sophomore forward Gigi Marvin and sophomore defenseman Dagney Willey each tallied a goal to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead going into the third period.

Minnesota’s offensive pressure had a defensive side effect as the continuous barrage of shots kept the puck out of the Huskies’ hands, limiting their scoring chances.

When St. Cloud State was able to get the puck out of their zone, the Gophers’ pesky defense was able to prevent them from capitalizing.

The Huskies (5-8-1, 2-8-1) were finally able to score with 3:30 left in the game, when freshman forward Meaghan Pezon poked the puck through a gap between the pipe and sophomore goalie Brittony Chartier’s pads.

But Marvin squashed St. Cloud State’s hopes of a rally when she added her second goal of the night two minutes later to seal the win for Minnesota.

Marvin’s three goals over the weekend moved her into a tie for the points lead on the team with Graft, who contributed four assists in the sweep – tying her for the team high with 11 assists on the year.

Two of Graft’s assists came during Minnesota power plays, where the Gophers picked up four goals on 11 chances.

On the other side of the ice, Minnesota’s penalty-kill lines gave up two goals on just four chances on Friday, but bounced back and shutout the Huskies on Saturday in four additional opportunities.

“After Friday’s game, (special teams) was one of our points of emphasis for (Saturday),” Halldorson said. “To hold them without a power-play goal in the second game was a big accomplishment for us.”

Saturday’s win was Minnesota’s seventh straight at home this season. The Gophers are now 8-1 at Ridder Arena with their only loss coming to New Hampshire in the Easton Shootout during the first week of the season.

“Playing (at Ridder), you’re relaxed and comfortable because you know the rink so well,” Marvin said. “We take a lot of pride when we play in front of our fans at Ridder Arena.”