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Gopher Women Best Beavers with Sweep, Become WCHA Regular Season Champs

In the final game of the regular season Minnesota beat Bemidji State 4-3. Also, thanks to the result of the Wisconsin-Ohio State game the Gophers are the WCHA regular season champions.

Cat Lenander

Saturday was Senior Day for Bemidji State and the final game of the regular season for both them and Minnesota at the Sanford Center. Emily Bergland made an early shot, which goaltender Sydney Scobee blocked, but Paige Beebe caught the rebound and Abby Halluska scored at 38 seconds into the game. Of course Minnesota wanted a goal of their own and Emily Oden made a sweet low shot that goaltender Kerigan Dowhy stopped. A lot of the first half was spent rink racing and as time went on Minnesota spent more time in Bemidji’s zone, even though the Beavers ultimately tied them 11-11 in shots first period.

Amy Potomak carried the puck down left side and got puck behind net before passing back to Sarah Potomak, who sent it to Kelly Pannek for a foiled attempt on goal. Gophers were blocking some shots and then Taylor Heise fed the puck to Taylor Williamson for a couple of solid attempts without luck. Later Grace Zumwinkle came down the side and made a surprisingly soft shot, but it still slipped through Dowhy’s defenses into goal at 16:33. Taylor Wente and Crystalyn Hengler assisted on this tying goal. Heise was denied on the 5-hole, which was followed up by an Alex Woken wrap around attempt, which was also fruitless. At the end of the period Clair DeGeorge, Halluska, and Lydia Passolt made a fantastic play that went wide, leaving the teams tied going into first intermission.

The Beavers made a concerted attack to start second period, though they couldn’t replicate their first period success. Gracie Ostertag made some chances during an extended Minnesota flurry that also included a couple of Hengler attempts. Then Sarah Potomak was taken out without a call, similar to what happened to Catie Skaja first period and directly in front of the officials. However, the ref’s blind eye soon helped the Gophers as, their ignoring Olivia Knowles’s on ice actions allowed Oden, with help from Patti Marshall, to sneak the puck past Dowhy at 6:03. This was immediately followed up by an unassisted Heise goal at 6:16. This also caused Bemidji to immediately use their timeout.

Nicole Schammel earned an interference penalty at 10:01. While the Beavers made some great attempts, the Gophers ultimately killed the penalty. The Beavers went back on defense after that with the team having to block a lot of Gopher shots and they tried to lessen the load on Dowhy. This was pretty much how the rest of the period played out as Minnesota finally pushed ahead in shots, which was only helped by a high sticking penalty on Beebe after she took down Emily Brown at 19:34.

The penalty carried over into third period and expired harmlessly when the Gophers couldn’t convert. A few minutes later Ellie Moser went down and appeared to be injured enough that a trainer came out to the ice before both teams helped get her off the ice. Right after that Sarah Potomak fed the puck to her sister and Amy Potomak scored at 5:47. Marshall had the second assist. Jacqueline Kaasa made a couple of shots trying to narrow the lead for her team. Instead it was teammate Haley Mack, assisted by Passolt, who accomplished this by making a bouncing shot into goal at 8:19.

Play briefly resumed before Minnesota used their timeout at 9:49. The Gophers may have decided to take a page out of Bemidji’s playbook and simply hunker down to preserve their lead for the rest of the game because the Beavers were managing a lot more puck possession post timeout. However, a lot of their shots were getting blocked by Gophers while Scobee stopped the rest. Amy Potomak blew into Bemidji’s zone to make several attempts on goal before play was forced back into Minnesota’s zone. Dowhy was pulled at 18:00, and the extra skater had immediate results for Bemidji as Halluska scored off DeGeorge’s set up at 18:07. Bergland had the second assist. Dowhy returned for fifteen seconds before being pulled again at 18:22 and there was a Beaver blitz on Scobee that lasted until the final buzzer.

However, Bemidji couldn’t steal another goal and tie the game. Minnesota won 4-3 after being outshot 27-28 by Bemidji, completing the sweep. Gophers were definitely happy by the results, as they had at least tied Wisconsin for the WCHA title, and the team immediately tuned into the Wisconsin-Ohio State game once they reached the locker room, as that particular game’s results would determine if Minnesota played or had a bye next weekend. Ultimately the nail biter ended in a tie, with Ohio State getting the shootout point. That meant Minnesota had also won the WCHA regular season championship, received the 1st seed bye, and would not play again until the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals on March 9th.