Minnesota headed up to Bemidji for their first away game, which occurred Friday afternoon. Sidney Peters was back between the pipes for Minnesota while Erin Deters tended the other goal. Alex Woken logged the first shot of the game, which was followed by many attempts by her teammates, but those shots were either stopped by Deters or blocked by Beaver defense. Abby Halluska had a great attempt on Minnesota’s goal and Clair DeGeorge’s shot was even better, but Peters stopped both of them and then fended off a Beaver flurry.
According to Dan Hamann, the Gopher Women’s Hockey play-by-play announcer, Bemidji was employing an aggressive fore check throughout the period and the rest of the game, which was giving the Gophers some difficulty. This is not particularly surprising, because the last couple of teams have been playing physically and this season’s record reflects the current team’s difficulty combating that style. Since it’s working, it seems likely Minnesota’s opponents will continue to be as aggressive as they can, at least until the Gophers start out playing them.
This Bemidji aggression was seen after Paige Beebe took an interference penalty at 19:12 and then another Beaver cross-checked Lindsay Agnew, though there wasn’t a second penalty. The Minnesota power play carried over to the next period, where the Beavers were unwilling to allow Grace Zumwinkle hold onto the puck for more than a second without interfering with her. This was understandable because 38 seconds into the second period Zumwinkle scored her fourth power play goal of the season with a low hard blast. Sydney Baldwin and Patti Marshall had the assists.
Later Bemidji could have taken a penalty for a move against Nicole Schammel, but the referees let it slide as the Gophers buzzed around the Bemidji zone. Instead it was Minnesota with the next penalty, as Katie Robinson went to the box for checking at 9:26. Kippin Keller joined her at 11:06 for the same reason after colliding with Kiki Radke. Despite the 5-on-3 disadvantage, and a concerted effort on Bemidji’s part to score, Minnesota killed both penalties. A few minutes later they had to kill another penalty after Olivia Knowles went for cross-checking when her stick got into the skates of DeGeorge at 17:33.
A little after third period started the puck came off the wall in Bemidji’s zone and Cara Piazza jammed it into the side of the net, scoring at 2:37. Baldwin and Sophie Skarzynski assisted. Minnesota continued their attack, buzzing around the Bemidji zone, after play resumed. Taylor Wente took a roughing penalty a 9:34 and Bemidji immediately used their timeout. Peters stopped a couple of saves and then Agnew got dinged for checking at 10:58. Head coach Brad Frost wasn’t thrilled about another Gopher penalty, especially when it ultimately let to Halluska, which an assist from Tina Kampa, scoring a power play goal from the right side at 12:54.
Emily Bergland went to the box on a checking penalty at 13:05. Minnesota spent the two minutes shooting like mad, but all their shots went wide or were blocked. In an effort to tie the game, Bemidji pulled Deters for the extra skater at 18:25 and the rest of the period was spent in a Beaver frenzy. Peters and her defense fended off quite a few shots before Wente eventually cleared the zone by sending the puck sliding across the rink into Bemidji’s untended goal at 19:57. With Wente’s empty netter, Minnesota secured their first WCHA victory of the season, besting Bemidji 3-1 despite the Beavers outshooting them 28-27.
Saturday saw Bemidji change to their red-shirted freshman goaltender Lauren Bench. Shortly after the game started Heather Olson used her stick to catch Agnew and went to the box for high sticking at 3:32. On the resulting power play Zumwinkle put three hard shots on goal, two of which were blocked and it sounded like Reilly Fawcett was skating slightly hurt after doing her due diligence. There was a lot of back and forth this period with few shots on either side. Eventually Summer Thibodeau scored at 13:49 by tipping in Mak Langei’s point shot. Radke had the second assist.
Shortly thereafter Langei collided with Skarzynski and unintentionally dealt out a blow to the chin, which sent Skarzynski to all fours on the ice. Skarzynski was slow to rise, but eventually skated to the bench and returned to the game in second period. Langei got a checking minor at 13:59, which harmlessly expired after Wente nearly scored. Late Thibodeau nearly got into it with Piazza after a whistle. Then in the last seconds of the period, Schammel scored off a quick pass from Caitlin Reilly after catching Bemidji defense flatfooted at 19:57. Baldwin had the second assist on this tying goal, which also had to be reviewed before being declared a good one.
Both teams came out second period and attempted shots. Most of Bemidji’s were blocked, but Minnesota recorded more shots in seven minutes than they had all of first period. At 8:17 Marshall’s point shot wrister beat Bench high on the glove side with assists going to Zumwinkle and Keller. The Gopher offense continued for several more minutes before the Bemidji blitz began. Langei made a wrap around attempt. Then there was a puck loose in the Minnesota crease, but defense eventually cleared it. Peters took a couple more shots and then Langei scored at 15:38, assisted by DeGeorge and Jacqueline Kaasa. Then in the last minute of the period Knowles has the puck just outside of the crease and gets knocked down. There’s a scramble for the puck, Agnew also touches it, and then Reilly scooped it up to score at 19:48.
Emma Terres, assisted by Briana Jorde and DeGeorge, tied the game again at 4:44. DeGeorge also had a good attempt that nearly put Bemidji in the lead. Then Piazza got her skates taken out without any penalty called. Woken had a great shot on Bench’s 5-hole but Bench made the save and Melissa Hunt went to the box for slashing at 9:03. The Gophers certainly tried to score, but their power play ended slightly immaturely as Reilly went for tripping at 11:00 after sticking her stick in Jorde’s skates. The penalty harmlessly expired. Minnesota had a great series of attempts, which left the Beavers exhausted, but they couldn’t breech Bench’s defense again in regulation, despite Wente crashing the net.
A Wente to Schammel play nearly ended things right away in overtime, but the pass didn’t quite click. Instead it was a screened Baldwin shot that hit the crossbar as it slid into goal at 1:04. Knowles and Reilly assisted on the game-winning goal. This 4-3 victory not only meant that Minnesota finished their first sweep of the season—which had to be a confidence booster for the team—but also that the program earned its 600th victory overall. After this the Gophers will be ready to go on their road trip to Duluth next weekend and take on the Bulldogs.