MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Gophers won every period in defeating the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks 4-0 in a contest matching two teams going in opposite directions.
Coming into the teams’ first meeting in Mankato in mid November, the Mavericks (6-12-3 overall, 5-9-1 in the WCHA) were on a four-game win streak and looked poised to position themselves in the middle of a competitive WCHA race.
“We were playing well, and when Minnesota came to our place, we played extremely well Friday night and didn’t win,” MSU head coach Eric Means said. “We’ve tried to get their morale back. Since the inception of the program, it’s been easy to go the other way.”
By contrast, Minnesota (14-6-0, 9-6-0) has gone 8-1 since the start of that series after a slow opening month.
“I think we might have come out a little stronger than we expected for our first game back, which is kind of a plus for us,” Minnesota senior wing Laura May said. “Hopefully, we can continue that tomorrow.”
Sarah Davis struck first for the Gophers at 12:02 of the first when her shot deflected off a Maverick defender and snuck inside the right post. Kelly Seeler had the only assist.
Minnesota expanded their lead to 3-0 in the second period on a pair of power play tallies. Sarah Erickson jumped on a loose puck and converted a quick shot 36 seconds into the frame. Jen Schoullis was credited with the helper on Erickson’s team-leading ninth goal.
“I’m told to shoot the puck, so that’s what I do,” Erickson said.
Anne Schlepper found Amanda Kessel open on the weak side of the play, and Kessel went upstairs for her seventh goal of the year at 12:19. Mira Jalosuo earned the second assist.
“We turned the puck over at the start of the second period on the power play,” Means said. “We went back, and we had it on our stick and we turned it over. Erickson gets it right there and shoots one on the ice between our goaltender’s legs. After that, they controlled a lot of that game.”
May made it 4-0 early in the third, notching her first goal of the season on an unassisted effort.
“It starts to turn into a monkey on your back, and then it’s a gorilla on your back, and then it’s just a whole herd of buffalo and you don’t know what to do to get rid of it,” May said of her scoring drought. “But it was a huge relief to see that light go off and finally bury that puck.”
Goalie Noora Räty denied 18 Maverick shots in posting her seventh shutout of the season.
One of the few negatives for Minnesota was Kessel coming up empty despite breaking in alone several times. But Erickson found positives in the way her line with Kessel and Schoullis is generating chances.
“Kessel is a fast, fast player, so she can spread that zone, and like we saw today, breakaway after breakaway. It’s just a matter of time before those pop in.”
The Mavericks look to get back in the win column in game two on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m shocked the way that we came out, because we probably had our best seven days of practice leading up to it, and we came out tonight and we stood around,” Means said. “And they played at a different pace than us. We’ve just got to show up here and have confidence that we can win.”