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Minnesota Women’s Hockey: Gophers score 20 goals on way to sweeping Minnesota State

This Gopher team can put the puck in the back of the net

Kelly Hagenson

The Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team thought they might have a tougher task on their hands in the second weekend of their season. On tap was a home and home series against Minnesota State, who while they sat at 4-0 had dropped a pair of games #1 Ohio State by just one goal each, and took #45 UMD to overtime and lost 2-0 in the other game. The Gophers decided to not even give a chance to the Mavericks to get that momentum and stick around as Minnesota would win in Mankato Friday afternoon by a score of 11-0, and then return to Minneapolis and pick up a 9-4 win at Ridder Arena on Saturday.

The Gophers entered their first road game of the season in Mankato with a goal to get out fast, and that they did. Minnesota outshot the Mavericks 24-2 in the opening period, with three of those shots getting in the goal. Grace Zumwinkle picked up a pair of first period goals with the third going to Catie Skaja.

The second period was more of the same with three more goals on the board for the Gophers as Zumwinkle completed the hat trick and Minnesota added tallies from Savanah Norcross and the first collegiate goal from Finnish freshman Nelli Laitinen.

The Gophers would put five more into the goal in the third period by five different players. Taylor Heise, Abbey Murphy, Peyton Hemp, Ella Huber and Madison Kaiser all scored for Minnesota with Kaiser’s goal the first of her collegiate career. Skyler Vetter played her second consecutive game and made 17 saves for her second career shutout. The nine different goal scorers for the Gophers is the most since a game against Princeton on Dec. 1, 2013. In the long history of the Gophers beating up on the Mavericks, the 11 goal differential was the largest ever between the two teams.

The two teams headed north on Highway 169 for the second game on the weekend in Minneapolis, and while Minnesota State showed they can put the puck in the net as well it was the Gophers who just kept scoring. The Gophers jumped out to a 3-0 lead just 11:15 into the game as Murphy and Skaja scored their second goals on the weekend and the third came from Swedish freshman Josefin Bouveng scoring her first career goal for the Gophers. But there would be more to come in short order.

Minnesota State would come back however scoring a power play goal from Alexis Paddington with 1:40 left in the first period to cut the Gopher lead to 3-1 at the break. Then just 24 seconds into the second period the Mavericks made it 3-2 after Paddington struck again. But Minnesota would push the lead back to two just over seven minutes into the period when Audrey Wethingson scored her first goal of the season. The Kavs would cut the lead back to one goal one final time with a Sydney Shearen tally three minutes later, but the Gophers once again pushed the lead to a pair with Bouveng’s second of the game late in the period.

The third period saw the Gophers strike first as Crystalyn Hengler recorded her first of the season just 1:14 into the third to put Minnesota up 6-3. The Mavericks did not roll over though and less than two minutes later cut the lead back to a pair at 6-4. That would be the final shot allowed by Gopher starting goalie Makayla Pahl who was pulled by Brad Frost and Vetter would come back in to finish the game.

Minnesota would cruise after the goalie switch adding a trio of goals in the second half of the third period with Murphy getting her second of the game and third of the weekend, Zumwinkle recording her fourth goal of the weekend and Bouveng finishing off her first collegiate hat trick with just over 30 seconds left in the game.

Pahl played 43 minutes and made 18 saves to earn the win. Vetter played the last 17 minutes making just two saves to complete a perfect weekend for her. Minnesota’s 20 goals on the weekend were the most they had scored in a two-game series since October of 1999. Zumwinkle now has 89 career goals which places her in a time for 8th all-time in Minnesota history with Ambra Thomas. She is just four goals behind Dani Cameranesi for 7th all-time. Murphy set a new career high with 6 points in the weekend as well.

For their efforts Zumwinkle and Vetter received WCHA Weekly honors this week. Zumwinkle was the Forward of the Week after scoring four goals and adding three assists. It’s the 8th time in her career she has been so honored. Vetter earned the WCHA Goalie of the Week honors after a scoreless weekend and 19 saves. It’s the second time she has earned the honor.

Minnesota keeps the in-state rivalries going this weekend as well as they will play a home and home series with St. Cloud State. Friday afternoon’s game is in Dt. Cloud with Saturday’s game back at Ridder Arena. On Saturday Minnesota will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Gopher women’s hockey with their alumni and will honor the 2012 and 2013 NCAA Championships teams. Faceoff is set for 2PM.