Gophers sweep Mavericks in home/away series

The No. 3 Gophers made quick work of Minnesota State-Mankato after a week with no ice time due to Wisconsin contracting COVID-19 cases.

The+University+of+Minnesota+women%E2%80%99s+hockey+team+plays+against+Ohio+State+at+Ridder+Arena+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+21.+The+Gophers+ended+the+night+with+a+4-0+win.

Emily Urfer

The University of Minnesota women’s hockey team plays against Ohio State at Ridder Arena on Saturday, Nov. 21. The Gophers ended the night with a 4-0 win.

Matthew Kennedy, Sports Reporter

Game 1: Gophers fire four goals to win handsomely in final period

On Thursday in Mankato, the Gophers’ women’s hockey team never lost the lead. An Abigail Boreen goal put the game at 1-0 in the first period, and early in the third period, Olivia Knowles, shooting from the blue line, secured a 2-0 lead for the Gophers.

Not long after Knowles’ goal, the Mavericks struck back with a goal from Sydney Langseth to put the game at 2-1. But once the second half of the final period hit, the Gophers caught fire.

Boreen first fired in her second score of the game, and one minute later Grace Zumwinkle also scored to extend the lead to 4-1. Then 20 seconds later, Taylor Heise helped the puck find the back of the net. A Gophers’ one goal, 2-1 lead extended to a four goal lead and eventually a 5-1 victory in the span of 72 seconds.

Lauren Bench made a season high in saves, stopping 40 of 41 shots from the Mavericks.

“Slow start tonight on the road. Mankato played really well but fortunately we got some breathing room from our play in the third period,” Gophers’ head coach Brad Frost said after the game. “Overall, we got three points [in the WCHA standings] and a great win on the road, and I look forward to getting off to a faster start tomorrow at home.”

Game 2: Gophers earn the sweep

Early on in the first period, the Gophers faced a 5-on-3 disadvantage because of massive penalty trouble with Anne Cherkowski and Emily Oden both receiving penalties within the same minute of each other. Luckily, that did not seem to bother them as they came away unscathed and back to full strength, only letting up two shots.

Soon, Audrey Wethington got a nice set-up for a close tip in from her older sister Madeline Wethington firing at the goal from afar that made the game 1-0.

“It felt really surreal. Credit to all of my teammates who I battled with all game and watching the Gophers all my life to finally get that goal felt amazing,” Audrey Wethington said.

In the second period, the Gophers continued their onslaught of shots at Mavericks goalie Lauren Barbro, and one managed to find the back of the net from Zumwinkle. At the end of the second, the Gophers were up 2-1 after a goal from Mankato’s Brittyn Fleming with 28 seconds left in the period.

In the third period, a defensive battle ensued as the Gophers’ defensemen only allowed five shots on goal the entire period. Neither team managed to score.

In the second game of the series, the Gophers also started Makayla Pahl over Bench. This was scheduled prior to last weekend, and Frost wanted to give Pahl a chance in net after working hard in practice the past few weeks.

Pahl in her first collegiate start was nearly perfect, saving 18 of 19 shots fired en route to a sweep and the Gophers improved to 5-1 on the season.

The Gophers’ next games this season are up in the air. They are finished with their “first stretch” of the season, and more information will be available in January with Frost expecting to get back on the ice sometime next month.

“Really good game tonight. Our team played really well and did a much better job tonight playing without the puck not giving up too many quality chances,” Frost said. “Credit to Mankato’s goaltender, she played really well. Overall, a great way to end the first half of the season.

“It’s been a tough stretch but I’m really proud of our team in how we’ve been able to manage everything here in the last few months, and I’m really looking forward to our team getting away and spending some time with our families and coming back rejuvenated to start up again in January.”