The Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team knew it would take between one and four points to clinch their first regular season WCHA Championship since 2019 this weekend. The Gophers decided to leave nothing to chance and with a pair of 7-1 wins over St. Thomas the Gophers won the conference.
The Gophers honored their 12 seniors prior to Saturday’s game, and started a lineup of six of the 12. But it was a freshman who got things started. Peyton Hemp scored less than two minutes into the game. The Tommies would get the equalizer past 5th year senior Lauren Bench in net, but Minnesota would add two more by the end of the period one by senior Taylor Heise and the other by another freshman in Ella Huber to take a 3-1 lead to the break.
Huber would pick up her second of the game nearly 14 minutes into the second period to make it 4-1 Gophers headed to the third. It would be all seniors in the third as Savannah Norcross would score a pair of goals and Emily Oden would add one to get the 7-1 final. Bench would make 11 saves in the win.
The Gophers raised the Julianne Bye Cup for the 11th time in program history. They will be the #1 seed in the WCHA Tournament and will face the Tommies at home next weekend for a best-of-three series.
With her first period goal Taylor Heise finishes the season with 60 points and 26 goals. Her 60 points led the nation and her 26 goals tied her for the NCAA lead with Wisconsin’s Daryl Watts. She is the first Gopher to score 60 points and lead the nation in scoring since Kelly Pannek in 2017.
The other WCHA First Round Playoff matchups are:
#7 St. Cloud State @ #2 Ohio State
#6 Bemidji State @ #3 Wisconsin
#5 Minnesota State @ #4 Minnesota-Duluth.
The four winners will return to Ridder Arena for the WCHA Frozen Faceoff in two weeks to see who will earn the WCHA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament,
Congrats to the Gophers for hanging the first of what will hopefully be three banners in the next few weeks!