The University of Minnesota Women's Hockey Team easily swept Minnesota State-Mankato this weekend in their WCHA First Round match-up and will advance to next weekend's WCHA Final Faceoff in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
The Gophers had no problem with the Mavericks in the opener on Friday night. Eleven different Gophers scored a point,while Gopher junior and Patty Kazmaier Award Hannah Brandt scored a hat trick and added an assist. Not to be outdone, one of the Gophers other Patty Kaz finalists, Dani Cameranesi added a pair of goals and four assists for herself on Friday night. Freshman Sidney Baldwin added to the goal parade with a pair of her own as the Gophers easily cruised to a 10-0 victory.
Saturday the Gophers had a bit more trouble with the Mavericks, but fought through some early struggles to win 5-1. The Gophers came out flat in the first period, most likely due to the fact that they had won 10-0 the night before. MSU-Mankato had several good scoring opportunities in the first period, but Gopher goalie Amanda Leveille stood tall. Even though Mankato outshot the Gophers 15-3 in the first period, no one could put the puck past either goaltender, and the score remained scoreless.
The Gophers finally cracked open the scoresheet in the second period on a pair of goals from Maryanne Menefee. her first goal came when she tipped in a gorgeous pass from Megan Wolfe at the 4:16 mark of the second. he second goal came on her next shift, just 1:43 later when she found a loose puck near the blue-line, skated into the left face-off circle and ripped a wrist shot under the glove of Mankato goalie Erin Krichiver. Kelly Pannek would add another goal for the Gophers three minutes later, and the crowd at Ridder Arena could breath easy once again.
The Gophers would add two more goals in the third period, one by Brandt giving her a team and WCHA leading 31 goals on the season, and the last by senior co-captain Rachael Bona. The Gophers would give up one goal as well as Leveille was lifted for senior goalie Shyler Sleta with ten minutes remaining in the game. Sleta was making only her 11th career appearance for the Gophers, and up to Saturday had never let in a goal. Unfortunately, the Mavericks slid a rebound past her to put a small blemish on her previously flawless goals against average. It would be their only tally of the weekend, as the Gophers would complete the sweep 5-1.
The Gophers did not know who they would play after their game on Saturday as Bemidji State and UMD wuld need a third game on Sunday to determine who would advance to Grand Forks. Both Gopher coach Brad Frost and Menefee stated that they did not have a preference and would be ready for either team. Sunday afternoon, they learned their opponent would be Bemidji State who advanced with a 2-1 overtime win at UMD.
The Gophers will open up the Final Face-off Saturday afternoon at 2:00 PM in Grand Forks against the Beavers. The second semi-final will match up host North Dakota against Wisconsin. The two winners will play Sunday afternoon at 1 to see who will get the WCHA's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers will be in regardless, and will host a home game at Ridder in the NCAA Quarterfinals on Saturday March 14th.
We will have a full WCHA Final Faceoff preview later this week at The Daily Gopher.