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Preseason Repeat: Gophers Best Whitecaps

For the second year in a row Gopher Women’s Hockey played the Minnesota Whitecaps in a preseason exhibition and beat them 5-4.

Weaving around former teammates, Minnesota Whitecaps player, Hannah Brandt, handles the puck.
Cat Lenander

On Friday night the University of Minnesota Women’s Hockey team hosted the Minnesota Whitecaps in a preseason exhibition game. This was the second year in a row the Gophers have played the league-less professional team and it’s a fun sneak peek into seeing how well the team is gelling before their official season starts. Frankly, there isn’t a better team around to test the Gophers’ mettle, as the Whitecaps are composed of DI alumnae; many former Gophers or national team players.

The Whitecaps came out offensively and were rewarded with the game’s first goal at 4:04. Hannah Brandt slipped into the right side of the crease and knocked the puck into an open net while her former goalie, Sidney Peters, was still on the other side. Kendall Coyne and Jocelyn Lamoureux had the assists. That made the Gophers push harder into the Whitecaps zone. Tianna Gunderson battled Shelby Amsley-Benzie at the crease until the goalie was on her belly and then flipped the puck over her to tie the game at 8:33. Kelsey Cline and Kippin Keller not only assisted, but also immediately congratulated the sophomore on her first goal as a Gopher.

Paige Haley picked up an interference penalty at 13:49, which the Gophers successfully killed. Then with less than a minute left in the period Kelly Pannek earned a roughing penalty by shoving Rachael Bona over as they battled for the puck along Minnesota’s backboards. While the penalty carried over to second period, Pannek did not return to the box nor to the game. She had taken what looked like a hit to the face from one of the Lamoureuxs early in the period and then, apparently, was injured taking another hit from one of them at the end of the period. So Minnesota coach Brad Frost pulled Pannek from the game as a precaution and had Sierra Smith serve the rest of the penalty for her.

Minnesota killed the penalty, however the Whitecaps scored just seconds later. Coyne wrapped around the Gophers' net in an attempt to put the puck away, but Peters blocked the shot. Brandt caught the rebound just left of the crease and drove the puck home at 1:33 with a low shot that went under the goalie. J Lamoureux had the second assist. Winny Brown then took a hooking penalty that was delayed long enough for Peters to get off the ice for 26 seconds. Gophers had a couple of great chances including one where Amsley-Benzie had to catch the puck along the goal line, but they were unsuccessful converting. The same was true during Brandt’s hooking minor at 8:31 as well.

Taylor Williamson took a checking penalty at 12:23, but the Whitecaps were unable to enjoy their power play for long. While fighting for the puck in front of her bench Kelly Seeler took down a Gopher, which sent her to the box at 12:49. After those penalties expired Gopher Nicole Schammel made a great attempt on goal by flying down the left side and attempting to trick the goaltender when she made her shot in the crease, but ultimately Amsley-Benzie countered the play. Instead, Patti Marshall passed to Dani Cameranesi at the right circle and she shot puck into the top right pocket, retying the game with just fifty seconds in the period.

At the start of third period Serena D’Angelo replaced Peters in net. Shortly after the freshman goaltender went in there was a shot from the top of the left circle that hit the right post and bounced inward, forcing D’Angelo to slide across the crease and catch it just before it crossed the goal line. Though, when a loose puck from nearly the same position became Brooke White-Lancette’s shot at 7:21, she successfully scored despite Sydney Baldwin and D’Angelo hurling themselves to the ice in attempts to halt the puck. Amy Stech had the lone assist.

The Gophers rallied. Then Stephanie Anderson took a cross-checking minor at 8:02 and a team finally scored with the skater advantage. The Gophers were cycling the puck around the Whitecaps’ zone, Cameranesi to Baldwin to Megan Wolfe. Wolfe then shot from essentially the left side’s goal line into the crease, whereupon the puck bounced off a skater, and into goal. Brown took a second hooking minor at 11:35, which was successfully killed by the Whitecaps.

Then at 15:35 Alex Woken pulled off a beautiful play, which gave the Gophers their first lead in the game. Woken zoomed up the right side outskating her pursuers and the cruised past the crease in a smooth arc. Just as she passed the top of the crease Woken flipped the puck up and over Amsley-Benzie into goal. Katie Robinson had the assist. D’Angelo and her defense fended off a flurry of Whitecaps attacks until they were eventually able to clear their zone. Then Wolfe carried the puck up the right and passed laterally to Keller, which allowed the freshman a clean shot into goal at 17:27.

Suddenly the Whitecaps are down by two and they use their time out. Amsley-Benzie is pulled. With the skater advantage Monique Lamoureux blasted the puck into goal from behind the right circle. The puck rattled around the top right corner, hitting D’Angelo’s side as it went in at 18:31. Brown had the assist. After that Amsley-Benzie made a brief return to her net when the Gophers broke back into the Whitecaps’ zone, but play was predominately around Minnesota’s net for the last minute and a half. However, the Whitecaps were unable to overcome their deficient and the Gophers won 5-4—the same score they had in last year’s preseason victory. Maroon and gold fans can only hope that’s a lucky portent for the season ahead.

Also of note from this game, the Minnesota Whitecaps have snazzy new uniforms this year! There are nameplates, plus there’s a neat grayscale gradient along the jerseys’ hems and on the socks. Not only are these jerseys more aesthetically interesting than last year’s—which were solid black save for a pair of white bands on each sleeve—but it’s so much easier to tell who is on the ice, especially if one doesn’t have a roster handy.