MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Going into the game, New Hampshire coach Brian McCloskey worried if his young team was ready to perform at the level necessary to compete on the road against second-ranked Minnesota.
That concern proved justified, as the Gophers (11-2-0) struck six times in the second period and romped to an 11-0 victory.
“That’s why you come out and you realize that you’re a class or two away,” McCloskey said. “I told the team after the game, ‘You play Division I, that is Division I.’”
Amanda Kessel had a hat trick in the second period alone and added a fourth goal in the third, the first four-goal game by a Minnesota player since Monique Lamoureux in January 2009.
“That was awesome,” Kessel said. “We had a great team effort tonight and it made it easy for me to get those goals.”
The sophomore forward felt that her game received a boost while competing for the United States at the recent Four Nations Cup.
“I think it helps, just to see different things and the pace, and just to know little things that I need to improve on that I can help the team with and just to bring back here,” she said.
Minnesota received contributions from all angles, with 18 of the 20 Gophers in uniform having at least a point, even starting goaltender Noora Räty, who picked up her seventh career assist as she handed off to Kessel on an end-to-end rush.
“I don’t know what the record is for points for a goaltender, but she’s got to be close,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said.
Seven other Gophers scored, including the first goals of the season for Bethany Brausen and Sam Downey, and the first career tally by sophomore defenseman Baylee Gillanders.
“You get some of those games where pucks go in the net and they started to do that quite a bit there in the second period and continued in the third,” Frost said. “It was great to see production up and down our lineup, with each line scoring at least one goal.”
Räty and Shyler Sletta combined on a 20-save shutout, while freshmen Jenn Gilligan and Moe Bradley made 38 stops in net for UNH (4-7-2).
“We’ve had similar experiences, but just never had it jammed down our throat like that, because not many teams can put on that kind of display,” McCloskey said.
McCloskey was encouraged by the effort of a number of Wildcats, but felt his thin roster was a few players short.
The teams conclude their series at 4:07 Saturday inside Ridder Arena.
“I just think that we’ve got to come out and compete and try to keep the game within control as long as we can and not let what happened in the second happen again,” McCloskey said.
The Gophers look to avoid a letdown coming off the one-sided win.
“It’s zero-zero and we’ve got to get back after it,” Frost said. “It’s a cliché, but it’s hard to win back-to-back games in Division I hockey, and we realize that, so we’re going to start fresh and go from there.”