MINNEAPOLIS — Over their previous seven meetings, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs had held the Minnesota Gophers to two goals or less each time, resulting in six Bulldogs wins and one tie.
On Saturday, Minnesota (16-6-1, 11-6-1-1 WCHA) finally got that elusive third goal, although on this occasion, one was all they needed to defeat UMD (12-5-2, 10-5-2-0 WCHA). Junior wing Sarah Erickson said the team’s high level of play was a topic of conversation during the game and in the locker room.
“Look at how much potential we do have if we put everything on the line,” Erickson said. “We’re going to be tough to beat if we can play like we did tonight every single game.”
After an entertaining but scoreless first period, Gophers freshman center Bethany Brausen took a pass from wing Laura May and fired a shot that Bulldogs goalie Kim Martin stopped but couldn’t control. As Brausen crashed the net, the rebound went in off of her body, and Minnesota had a 1-0 advantage 2:02 into the second period.
“I just fired the puck on net, saw the rebound come loose, and I just crashed the net,” Brausen said. “I wasn’t even sure where the rebound was. I knew that if I got to it, she was kind of fumbling with it.”
“That goal just epitomized what our team can do,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “[Megan Bozek] chipped it behind the net, (Kelly) Seeler won a race into the corner and chipped it up to [Terra Rasmussen]. ‘Ras’ was really patient with the ‘D’ pinching and moved it to May. May went up the ice, great cross and drop, shot, drive the net, and it went in. It was just picture perfect.”
If Brausen’s goal had a blue-collar finish, Erickson followed with a snipe less than four minutes later that was at the other end of the goal spectrum. She took a pass from Amanda Kessel off of a rush and picked a top corner with a snap shot for her 11th goal of the year.
“We need the dirty ones and we need the nice ones; we’ll take whatever we can get,” Erickson said.
Minnesota upped the lead to 3-0 with a five-on-three goal with 7:26 to go in the second as Kessel got the puck to the front and Kelly Terry snuck it in.
Despite the Gophers having third-period penalty problems for the second straight game, there was no additional scoring, due in large part to the efforts of Noora Räty, who turned in her eighth shutout of the campaign. That ties former Gophers goalie Jody Horak, who notched eight goose eggs during Minnesota’s NCAA championship season of 2004-05.
“When I came back from Four Nations, I’ve been practicing hard and seeing the puck well, and of course, the team is playing much better, so that’s why my job is also easier right now,” Räty said.
The sophomore goaltender was especially sharp in the first period, when she made 14 of her 31 saves during end-to-end action.
“I like playing when there is some speed in the game,” she said. “I think this game was the fastest that we have ever played this year, so I enjoy playing there.”
The Gophers missed out on a great opportunity in the first period’s final seconds. Martin stopped Kessel on a breakaway, and then denied Jen Schoullis’ efforts to knock in the rebound.
Frost said, “As coaches, we were talking in the room about our chances and how big that would have been, and coach [Natalie] Darwitz with her good insight says, ‘Yeah, but just like we know it, they know it, too. Let’s continue to be positive and have them keep taking steps forward.’”
UMD opens their new arena next weekend as top-ranked Wisconsin comes to Amsoil Arena.
Minnesota takes to the road for the first time in 2011 to face Ohio State.
“We’ll have to see what happens when we get to Columbus, but I’m sure they’re going to be hungry to get another win,” Frost said.