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Lucky on the Road: Minnesota’s Second Sweep

Minnesota bested Minnesota-Duluth 4-1 Friday. Then Minnesota came from behind to win 2-1 Saturday.

Cat Lenander

Friday kicked off another matinee road game for Minnesota, this time in Duluth against the Bulldogs. Since Katie Robinson was injured during practice this week, the Gophers only had five defense players on the ice this weekend and mainly rolling two D-pairs. UMD was in the same boat for their blue line. In goal Minnesota chose to start Sidney Peters, while Duluth put in Catherine Johnson instead of Jessica Convery, who has started most of the games for them this season.

The Gophers came out strong and were rewarded for their efforts when Caitlin Reilly deflected Olivia Knowles’s shot into goal at 3:59. The play went under review, but was determined to be good, and Nicole Schammel had the second assist. Shortly thereafter McKenzie Revering took a penalty for tripping Alex Woken at 5:38. Minnesota cycled the puck, peppering the net in the process, however the Johnson and her defense blocked everything they threw at them during the power play. The next puck to make it past a goaltender was when Cara Piazza redirected Patti Marshall’s point shot into goal at 10:31. Sophie Skarzynski had the second assist.

At about this point, control of the game passed to UMD. The Gophers thought they had scored a third time and backed off a play before the puck crossed the goal line, which allowed Duluth to clear it before the scoring gap widened. The Bulldogs also started controlling puck possession and shooting on Peters, which didn’t let up significantly for the rest of the game. Shots had been 11-2 in Minnesota’s favor, but by the end of the period they were 13-7 with UMD eager to close the gap.

As soon as second period started Peters had to make two big saves on Bell’s shot and the resulting rebound Ryleigh Houston threw her way. Bell then had to sit for two after checking Piazza at 1:12, which didn’t make the slightest difference as Minnesota only mustered one shot with the skater advantage. Then Knowles went for checking at 4:51 and the penalty expired two minutes later. Sydney Brodt crashed the net and tested Peters with eight shots throughout the game—none of which found their way to the back of the net. Mallorie Iozzo had a breakaway, but Sydney Baldwin interfered by sticking her stick into Iozzo’s hip, giving Duluth a penalty shot at 18:43. Iozzo took it for the team, but Peters was wise to to her fake out attempt and Iozzo ultimately missed.

13 seconds into third period Piazza earned a five-minute major and a game misconduct for checking Katerina Mrazova from behind. As this meant Piazza was ejected from the game, Tianna Gunderson served the penalty in her place. Mrazova and Naomi Rogge repeatedly left Peters scrambling in the crease to stop the puck—including a point where she had to slide from pipe to pipe—as Minnesota fended off the major. With just 22 seconds left in the penalty Jessica Healey broke through Peter’s shutout when she tipped in Mrazova’s low shot on the backdoor at 4:51. Rogge had the second assist.

With only a one goal lead things were beginning to look a little worrying for the Gophers, especially as they couldn’t generate any puck possession. Which is why it was so surprising when Reilly picked the puck up at the blue line and scored unassisted with a breakaway at 5:19. Woken and Grace Zumwinkle tried to make a play, but it came to nothing. The Bulldogs threw a series of shots, but all went wide or are blocked. Then Rogge had another amazing chance in the crease and while Peters lost her blocker, she made the save.

When Knowles took a slashing penalty at 13:13 the Bulldogs attempted to recreate their last success, but the Gophers denied them yet again. Just after the penalty expired, Taylor Wente scored from the dot at 15:33, assisted by Schammel and Baldwin, by driving the puck home above Johnson’s glove. Then Agnew went to the box for cross-checking Catherine Daoust along the wall at 17:04. While the Bulldogs spent the rest of the period on the attack, they couldn’t bypass Peters again. Minnesota won 4-1 despite being outshot by Duluth 35-23.

In Saturday’s game Minnesota put Alex Gulstene in goal, while Duluth chose Convery. Minnesota also completely rearranged their lines in hopes of generating more offense after allowing Duluth to completely control the game the day before. The chances didn’t help much first period, though Skarzynski did have a solid breakaway attempt. Rogge put a great shot on goal, which Gulstene deflected and then went on to stop Bell’s rebound. Both goaltenders had their D help with corralling some big rebounds.

Duluth spent over four minutes buzzing around the Minnesota crease and smothering the Gophers until Marshall took a holding penalty at 11:51. Woken made a breakaway attempt, but it was Bell to score on the backdoor when she squeezed the puck past Gulstene and the post at 13:36. Jalyn Elmes and Michelle Lowenhielm assisted. Zumwinkle’s breakway attempt was Minnesota’s best chance of the period, but Duluth led 12-8 in shots and owned the lone goal when the teams headed to the locker rooms for first intermission.

A Knowles turnover nearly resulted in a Lowenhielm goal right off the bat second period, but after that the Gophers got their act together. Kippin Keller made some great chances, but couldn’t connect with Skarzynski for the open backdoor. Then Elmes checked Reilly and had to sit for two at 7:41. Minnesota was puck cycling and shooting, but the Bulldogs were blocking and the power play harmlessly expired. Houston had a couple of great blasts and Duluth hit the pipes three times—once by Emma Yanko and twice by Rogge—in the period but neither team could score.

From puck drop of the third period Minnesota had some solid chances mixed with a bit of back and forth across the ice. This cumulated in a Marshall shot from the blue line, that Jackie Pieper deflected in front of the net, allowing Skarzynski to score. The tying goal came at 4:45. This was not only Pieper’s first shift of the game, but her first point as a Gopher. After that Rogge seemed to be everywhere, creating chaos while putting shots on goal every chance she got, and after one shot went high, she went flying. The rest of the Bulldogs were doing their part as well, including Daoust who had a great chance down the side, but Gulstene caught her shot. Elmes was pretty active too.

However, it was a concerted Gopher effort with at least four players involved that resulted in the next goal when Reilly came off the end wall and knocked Marshall’s bouncing rebound past Convery to score at 16:24. Emily Brown had the second assist. Rogge bulldozed Baldwin, which sent her to the box for checking at 17:43 and Duluth immediately used their timeout. It didn’t help their ability to convert, nor did pulling Convery, which occurred at 19:33. It was a resilient third period comeback that allowed the Gophers to claw their way to a 2-1 victory and complete their second sweep of the season.

If Minnesota wants to do the same next weekend, they’ll have to be ready to play and control a full 120 minutes because Wisconsin is coming to Ridder Arena. The Badgers might be a young team this year, after graduating a talented group that included Patty Kazmaier winner Ann-Renee Desbiens, but they’ve had a more successful season compared to Minnesota. Wisconsin comes in with a record of 10-0-0, 4-0 in conference, though they haven’t faced opponents of quite the same caliber as Minnesota has just yet. In any case one can be sure the series will be worth watching, as the border battles are always the best series of the regular season.