MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Last season, Brown visited Minnesota and was beaten by a first line featuring some of the country’s top scorers. With all of those players gone, things figured to be much closer this year.
Instead, Erica McKenzie netted four goals, Bobbi Ross had a five-point game, and Gigi Marvin assisted three times to provide the Gophers (8-3-0, 4-2-0 WCHA) with another dominant performance by a top line, this time in a 5-1 victory.
McKenzie’s career-high game in goals gives her 13 on the season, tops in Division I.
“McKenzie clearly separates herself from the rest,” said Brown coach Digit Murphy. “She’s a real big, strong, finesse forward. At one point, I saw the Wendell-Darwitz show out there for a little while, that bing-bang-boom — I thought they graduated. For some reason, they keep coming.”
McKenzie snuck behind the Brown defense in the first minute of the second period, negating a 1-0 first intermission lead for the Bears (2-3-0, 1-1-0 ECAC).
“Chelsey [Brodt] made a great pass,” McKenzie said. “We were on the power play, and we were switching from the maroon to the gold unit. Bobbi made a good pass to Chelsey, Chelsey picked up her head and found me on the far blue line. I picked up the puck, and the goalie was back in the net and I went blocker side. Worked out well.”
Ross scored her tenth of the season a couple of minutes later, finishing off a Marvin setup on the doorstep. It proved to be the game winner.
Ross attributed some of the success the linemates enjoyed in their first game as a unit to their experience together on the power play.
“I’ve played with Mac before, and Gigi’s just a sound player,” she said.
The two sophomore forwards combined to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead after two periods.
“Me and Bobbi were coming on a 2-on-1, and I saw her, and I thought she was going to try to burn the D, and I was going to just flip a pass to the stick,” McKenzie said. “She kind of cut behind me, so I just dropped it back to her. I wasn’t really expecting the pass back, because I thought she was on her own. Bobbi made another great pass.”
Early on, Brown looked poised to perpetuate Minnesota’s Saturday struggles. Despite being outshot 14-3 in the first period and 33-12 for the game, Hayley Moore’s third goal grabbed the early lead for the Bears.
“It was a great pass from Keaton Zucker,” Moore said. “She did all of the work down low. It was exciting set the tempo for the first period.”
“(Moore) has come in this year, she’s worked out in the weight room all summer,” Murphy said. “She made the ECAC All Star team, so it seems that she’s highly regarded by my coaching peers as well. She really has picked up her game. She sees the ice well, gotten stronger. She’ll be a real force, and she’s only a sophomore.”
Eventually, Minnesota’s edge in play and chances swung the game.
“We struggle as a youthful team getting used to the pace,” Murphy said. “I think we were lucky in the first period, got a couple of lucky bounces, but they’re not used to playing three full periods yet.”
The final 5-1 margin resulted from a pair of McKenzie tallies, including another breakaway for her first hat trick.
She said, “One of my open breaks, Gigi was like ‘Hey, lets do this play.’ Usually, our coaches call it from the bench. She decided to call it, and she won the draw, and Bobbi made a great pass out to me.”
“If you look at our goals, they all had a great pass at least one,” said Coach Laura Halldorson.
“I thought that all the lines generated good offensive opportunities,” Halldorson added. “I thought that we still could have been a little tighter defensively, because we gave up some chances. Fortunately, our goalie made some big saves.”
Brittony Chartier stopped 11 shots in claiming her eighth win. O’Hara Shipe stopped 28 shots for Brown.
Murphy said, “You’ve got to play a perfect game to beat a team like this. We were far from perfect.”
The Gophers had reasons to be concerned as well, both with breakdowns in their own end and failure to finish other chances. They look to improve on both in Sunday’s rematch.
“We definitely have to make sure we know that it’s a brand new day, and today doesn’t matter if we don’t win tomorrow,” Ross said. “We need a sweep right now to get back on track.”
“We had a little bit different line combinations today,” Halldorson said. “We’re still teaching things and trying to find the personnel that clicks best together. Sometimes, you’ve got to do it one line at a time and find something that you like.”
On Saturday, the McKenzie, Marvin, and Ross line provided a lot to like.