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Minnesota Women’s Hockey: Gophers Lose 2-1 to UMD in NCAA Quarterfinal

Emma Soderberg made 37 saves for the Bulldogs.

Brad Rempel—

The Minnesota Gophers women’s Hockey team just could not put together their complete game and it cost them as Minnesota-Duluth upset the host Gophers 2-1 to end Minnesota’s season. Minnesota’s sloppiness got them in trouble at times this season, and it cost them a chance at another Frozen Four on Saturday. The Gophers finish 29-9-1 on the year. UMD advances to next weekend’s Frozen Four and will take on Northeastern in a semifinal.

The first period started with UMD having the better looks. They jumped out with tons of energy in contrast to last weekend when Minnesota made the Bulldogs look slow in their 5-1 win at the WCHA Final Faceoff. UMD got an early power play and had a few good looks including one crazy goalmouth scramble, but Lauren Bench stood tall though and keep the game scoreless.

Minnesota would go on a power play after Catie Skaja was tripped in the Bulldog zone and they would cash in. Abigal Boreen almost had a goal but Emma Soderberg made a great save. Approximately 30 second later though she would cash in. Amy Potomak fought along the boards to keep possession and passed it to Skaja who found Boreen open in the high slot and she went top corner to put the Gophers ahead 1-0.

Both teams would have good chances the rest of the period with Minnesota’s mostly coming after controlling the puck in the Bulldog zone while UMD’s came on either Minnesota turnovers or in transition in the neutral zone. Bench stood her ground making 10 saves to keep Minnesota with a 1-0 lead after 1.

UMD once again came out quick to start the second period. Minnesota continued to have trouble in the neutral zone and committed several turnovers than resulted in UMD chances. Minnesota could not seem to get the consistent offensive zone production that makes them so dangerous.

Minnesota started to switch the momentum midway through the period, but they could not beat Soderberg. UMD took their timeout midway through the period after a long stretch of Gopher possession in their D zone but UMD’s defense kept clogging shooting lanes in front of her as well forcing Minnesota’s shots high and wide of the net or into easily savable positions.

UMD would finally break through and tie the game with 5:14 left in the second period on a horrible misplay by Bench. Manon McMahon took a shot that floated from the point and Bench thought she caught it in her glove. She did not. As she brought her glove down it bounced off the top of it fell behind her and trickled into the net as she and Gopher defender Madeline Wethington frantically flailed at it. It was a mistake you can not have from a goalie in the NCAA Tournament.

Minnesota got a power play with 1:55 left in the period after Savanah Norcross got interfered with but they could not take advantage. Minnesota had a 22-19 edge in shots on goal after two periods, but the game was tied at 1.

Minnesota once again began a period carelss and sloppy and UMD made them pay. After a trio of Gophers converged on the puck in the corner of their defensive zone and colided into one another the puck popped right out to the stick of UMD’s Gabbie Hughes. Hughes who had a natural hat trick in the Bulldog’s 4-0 win Thursday night did not miss this opportunity and ripped a writer over Bench’s shoulder to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead with 15:24 left in the period.

Minnesota turned up the offensive intensity after falling behind but UMD just packed their defense in tight in front of Soderberg and cleared any rebound they could get their sticks on. The Gophers kept pressuring but Soderberg stood tall. Minnesota called their timeout with 2:15 left and pulled Lauren Bench but they could not solve Soderberg and the Bulldogs would win 2-1.

Soderberg made 37 saves in the win and was the main reason why UMD won. But Minnesota did not play their best game in any shape or form. They were sloppy at center ice, made huge mistakes in their own end that directly attributed to the game winning goal and could not find any connection in the UMD zone after the lone power play goal.

UMD advances and will play Northeastern in one Frozen Four semifinal. They are the lone team remaining in the field that has won a previous NCAA Championship after both Minnesota and Wisconsin lost on Saturday. They will look to join the Gophers and Badgers with 6 NCAA titles each.

Minnesota will be back next season as they only for sure lose a pair of defenders in Emily Brown and Olivia Knowles along with goalie Lauren Bench. Their top line of Heise, Boreen and Skaja can all return if they want, and they will get back Grace Zumwinkle and Abbey Murphy from the US Olympic team. But September is a long ways away. As for March...the dream is dead.