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Women’s hockey: Breaking records in incredible season start

Kicking off their WCHA season 9-0-1, the Gophers have had their best start of a season since 2013.
Image by Ethan Fine
Captain Taylor Heise is returning for her fifth season as a Gopher.

Nov. 4 vs. Minnesota Duluth

On Friday, the Gophers hosted the University of Minnesota-Duluth at Ridder Arena for the two teams’ first matchup of the season.

Prior to this game, Duluth was ranked fifth nationally. The Bulldogs were coming off a split series with Wisconsin, winning one game 2-1 in overtime and losing the second game 4-3 in overtime.

Less than two minutes after puck drop, Ella Huber opened the scoring for the Gophers with a nifty one-handed tuck.

Four minutes later, Lizi Norton followed up with a shot from the top of the left circle that beat Duluth goaltender Emma Soderberg.

Both Huber’s and Norton’s goals were their second of the season and gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead to conclude the first period.

A quarter of the way into the second period, Gabby Krause buried a loose puck to cut Duluth’s deficit to one goal.

Minnesota held their lead until the beginning of the third period when Nina Jobst-Smith tied the game for Duluth on the power play.

Time expired in the third period with the score tied at 2-2 and the two teams headed to overtime.

Ten seconds into the extra period, Grace Zumwinkle found Taylor Heise with a beautiful pass to give her a partial breakaway. Heise cut to her backhand to elude Soderberg and shot the puck into the gaping cage as the Gophers took down the Bulldogs 3-2.

Nov. 5 vs. Minnesota Duluth

The two teams squared off again in an afternoon match at Ridder Arena.

Continuing their theme of early goals, Catie Skaja scored just 25 seconds into the game for the Gophers on a one-timer feed from Heise.

Gopher fans wouldn’t have the chance to sit down as Abbey Murphy doubled Minnesota’s lead just 10 seconds later.
Skaja’s and Murphy’s goals shattered the record for the two fastest goals to start a regular season game in WCHA history; the previous record was set in 2013 by Minnesota when they scored two goals in 1:07 against Bemidji State.

Similar to Friday, Minnesota’s 2-0 lead was halved as Duluth’s Maggie Flaherty would score to make it a one-goal game.

Seven minutes into the second period, Skaja scored her second goal of the game to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead.

Minnesota was not done yet, though, as the Gophers would score two more goals in four minutes to take a commanding 5-1 lead. No goals were scored for the remainder of the second period.

Duluth’s Mannon McMahon scored in the first half of the third period with hopes of sparking a comeback. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they were unable to beat Minnesota’s defense, scoring only once more in the final minute of play.

The Gophers would prevail for the second night in a row 5-3, improving their conference record to 9-0-1.

With their sweep of the Bulldogs, Minnesota has now swept four out of five of their Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) series.

Heise and Skylar Vetter received WCHA weekly honors for the second week in a row; Heise was awarded Forward of the Week for her four-point weekend, and Vetter was named Goaltender of the Week for her .909 save percentage in the series.

Currently undefeated in regulation, the Gophers are the only team in the WCHA to boast this status. This is the first time since the 2013-14 season the Gophers have remained undefeated through their first ten WCHA games.

The Gophers have been dominant so far, outscoring opponents 53-23, averaging roughly five goals per game. Of those 53 goals, two hat tricks have been recorded; Josefin Bouveng and Zumwinkle each with one. It has taken 11 games for Minnesota to reach this mark, whereas last season, Gopher skaters registered four hat tricks in 39 games.

It took Minnesota just 10 games to reach 50 goals this season, the fastest a Gopher team has done so since the 2015-16 season.

As a result of all their accomplishments, Minnesota was voted No.1 in the nation by for the second week in a row – this time by a unanimous decision.

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