BEMIDJI, Minn. — It took the Minnesota Gophers a long time to break the ice on the Bemidji State Beavers’ net in the newly-named Sanford Center, but once they accomplished it, they warmed up to their task. After being shutout on Friday afternoon, Minnesota (11-6-0, 6-6-0-0 WCHA) erupted for six goals, including the first five of the game over the first two periods.
Gophers coach Brad Frost and his staff changed up the lines from the combinations used on Friday, and the reunited trio of Sarah Davis centering Kelly Terry and Becky Kortum combined to go a plus seven, with two goals and four assists.
“I think it comes down to communication,” said Terry, who had a goal and three assists. “If we come off of a bad shift, we’re able to sit down and talk about it and figure out what we can do differently. I guess some types of players have a lot of chemistry, and I think that’s our line.”
Davis got a fortuitous bounce on the first marker, as her centering pass intended for Terry hit a Bemidji (7-7-2, 5-5-2-1 WCHA) skate and deflected into the net at 13:34. Terry and Mira Jalosuo had the assists on Davis’ fifth goal of the season.
“We got some breaks, there’s no doubt, but we had to work for those breaks and created those breaks,” Frost said.
The key sequence of the game followed immediately after, with the teams skating four-on-four and the Beavers applying good pressure in Minnesota’s zone. Sarah Erickson spotted Amanda Kessel floating behind the defense. Kessel took her time as she skated in alone and scored on the deke.
“It was a mental mistake on our part that we let her get open behind us,” Bemidji coach Steve Sertich said. “You sure can’t give a player like that a chance, and she ate us up.”
Kessel finished with a goal and two helpers on the day.
Right off the ensuing faceoff, Terry broke in, and though she seemed to lose control of the puck as she got to the net, it fooled Zuzana Tomcikova and slid into the net.
“We’ve been talking a lot about faceoff intensity, and I had that in my head, along with that energy that Kessel developed,” Terry said. “I just jumped on the puck, and it worked out for me.”
“We didn’t tie up at neutral ice, and they blew right by us,” Sertich said.
That flurry of three goals in only 65 seconds seemed to make hockey fun again for the Gophers.
“We had a lot of fun out there; that’s one thing that you want to make sure that you’re doing, because that’s why you play the sport, is to have fun,” Erickson said. “But also to win, and I think those two go hand-in-hand.”
The Gophers were able to sustain pressure on a shift in the second period, and Megan Bozek capitalized with at blast from center point that found an opening in Alana McElhinney, who’d started the period in relief in goal.
Minnesota again established control in the attacking zone, Jen Schoullis parked in the slot, Kessel found her, and Schoullis picked a low corner for a 5-0 Minnesota lead.
Emily Erickson broke up Noora Räty’s attempt at a shutout early in the third period with a well-placed wrister, but Anne Schleper got the goal back on Minnesota’s first power play of the day.
Annie Bauerfeld wrapped up the scoring just after a Beavers penalty expired, producing the final 6-2 score on a feed from Erin Cody.
For the first game of the weekend, the arena was still officially the Bemidji Regional Events Center. Twenty-four hours later, it had been rechristened the Sanford Center, but whatever you call it, the Gophers were impressed by the facility on their first visit.
“Bemidji State deserves this arena,” Sarah Erickson said. “I came in for practice on Thursday, and I couldn’t stop smiling, because they’ve done a great job over the years; they deserve an arena like this. It’s fun to come back to, it’s fun to play in. Hopefully next time, we can get two out of it.”
The two teams conclude the 2010 portion of their schedule next week; the Beavers travel to Mankato to take on Minnesota State, while the Gophers host Ohio State.
“A big three points for us; we needed it badly,” Frost said. “Hopefully, we can carry it on to next weekend.”