Gophers power play relying on veterans

Minnesota has the No. 1 power play in the country and is 24-for-49 so far.

Gophers forward Dani Cameranesi scores a goal against Yale in Ridders Arena on Nov. 20.

Joe Sulik, Daily File Photo

Gophers forward Dani Cameranesi scores a goal against Yale in Ridders Arena on Nov. 20.

by Emily Polglaze

Minnesota is no longer the top-ranked team in the country, but it still leads college hockey in one important statistic. 
Minnesota is currently 24-for-49 on the power play, converting 48.98 percent of its chances.
The Gophers’ efficiency on special teams will be tested this weekend when they travel to face the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers, who currently have the No. 1 penalty kill in the country. 
“To be close to 50 percent at this time of the year is incredible, but we’re going to need some power-play goals this weekend to be successful,” head coach Brad Frost said.
Minnesota’s success on the power play has largely come from its returning players.
Junior forward Dani Cameranesi currently leads the nation in power-play goals with eight and leads the Gophers in total points on the power play with 11. Cameranesi accumulated 13 power-play points over all of last season. 
Senior defenseman Milica McMillen is tied for the fourth-most power-play goals in the nation with four. 
McMillen has also taken the most shots for the Gophers on the power play with 22. 
McMillen’s power-play unit also includes senior captain Hannah Brandt and sophomore forward Kelly Pannek. 
Brandt was Minnesota’s top power-play producer last season with 17 points, and Pannek was tied for second with 14. 
Junior captain Lee Stecklein and sophomore forward Cara Piazza also usually play on McMillen’s unit, making it an all-veteran line.
The group has 34 points combined and has been responsible for much of the team’s success on the power play so far. 
“I think a part of it is that almost all of us have been on [the power play] before,” McMillen said. “Having that experience really helps. We’re just trying to move the puck well, and things are opening up. We’re getting lucky sometimes, but we’ll take it.”
The Gophers’ other power-play unit consists of Cameranesi, freshman forward Sarah Potomak, junior forward Kate Schipper, junior defenseman Megan Wolfe and sophomore defenseman Sydney Baldwin.
The group didn’t have a lot of experience on special teams coming into the season, but it’s still managed to contribute plenty of scoring. 
“I think it took us a couple weekends, but we finally got it down,” Cameranesi said. “We changed some things that are different from the first power play that are working a 
lot better for us as a group.”
Potomak has been a solid contributor on the power play as a rookie, with seven assists so far.
The Badgers have killed 97.9 percent of their penalties this season, but Cameranesi said the team has been preparing well in practice.
“I honestly think the penalty killers we have in practice, they push us to be our best,” Cameranesi said. “They’ve really helped us flourish in the power-play aspect.”