MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Gophers dominated the Orange of Syracuse on the shot chart throughout, struck for three first-period goals, and cruised to a 4-0 shutout in the final game of the East/West Showdown with 1,343 fans in attendance.
“To a degree, I now know how the Minnesota football team feels,” Orange coach Paul Flanagan said, referring to the Gophers 58-0 drubbing earlier in the day at Ann Arbor, Mich.
The veteran blue line contributed two goals and three assists for Minnesota (2-0). Junior Megan Bozek fired home the eventual game-winner at 4:44 of the first period on a power play, and classmate Mira Jalosuo found the twine 10 minutes later to push the advantage to 3-0. Bozek had an assist as well, while senior Kelly Seeler had two.
“I think we have one of the strongest ‘D’ corps in the country this year,” Bozek said.
“So much of it as well is how teams defend us,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “If they want to collapse around our net and leave our points open, we’re fine with that.”
The Gophers’ first line was instrumental once again, as each member had two points — Amanda Kessel and Sarah Erickson getting a goal and an assist apiece, while center Jen Schoullis earned two helpers.
“To get a quick start for us is great, but we’re the only line that has played together,” Erickson said. “So the other lines are going to take a bit to get going here, and they’re working their butts off just as much as we are.”
At least in this game, they got plenty of scoring help from their defensive corps.
“Everybody has got a heavy shot this year,” Erickson said. “We’re really lucky up top. Any time the ‘D’ get it, we want to be in front, because there’s going to be a nice rebound or else it’s going to be a goal with a screen.”
The margin could have been more lopsided but for fine work by Minnetonka, Minn., native Kallie Billadeau in the net for Syracuse (1-1).
“That’s a good hockey team that we played tonight, but our offensive pressure was a little too much for them,” Frost said. “Their goalie played fantastic.”
Billadeau stopped 46 of 50 shots on the night, while Noora Räty denied all 10 shots she faced on the other end to record her 17th shutout in maroon and gold.
“I thought we played scared,” Flanagan said. “Obviously, they’ve got a great team and got a lot of skill and speed, good size, but we gave them too much respect. As the game went on, I thought we started to compete more.”
That was evidenced by the scoreboard, as Syracuse allowed three goals in the first, one in the second, and played a clean third.
“In some crazy way, the penalty kill is probably good for us,” Flanagan said. “It’s just hard work. They’ve got a great power play, it’s a huge strength of their team, so we had to dig in. Billadeau was our best penalty killer by far.”
Despite the setback, Flanagan got what he wanted out of the weekend.
“That’s why you play these games — to see where we’re at, and I think we got a pretty good gauge now of what we have to work on.”
Friday, Syracuse visits Northeastern, and Minnesota begins league play by hosting St. Cloud State.
“We only get six nonconference games, so there’s a third of them right there, and now we’re going to be pretty steady into conference games for awhile,” Frost said. “WCHA points are big, and we’re hoping to get a bunch next weekend.”