MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Goalie Danielle Butters and Minnesota State held the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers off the scoreboard for more than 34 minutes, the best any defense has done this year, but eventually Minnesota’s top line got enough rubber by her to secure a 3-0 victory over the Mavericks.
Hannah Brandt tallied twice and Noora Räty turned in a 24-save shutout as Minnesota (13-0-0, 9-0-0 WCHA) notched its 21st straight win dating back to February 18 last season, tying the NCAA record for consecutive victories established by Harvard on March 15, 2008.
“Nice to tie the NCAA record for most consecutive wins, and we’re looking forward to getting back at it again tomorrow to try to break that record,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said.
Räty, who has earned 20 of those wins, posted her sixth shutout of the year and her 32nd as a Gopher.
“Any time you can make history, it feels pretty good,” Räty said. “We have a great group of girls, and I think we deserve this record.”
The Mavericks (4-7-2, 2-5-2-1 WCHA) made it through the opening frame unscathed, but as the second period moved along, Butters was frequently under siege, particularly when Brandt’s line with wings Amanda Kessel and Maryanne Menefee was on the ice.
“They had us in a difficult rotation,” MSU coach Eric Means said. “As much as we’re trying to get out of it, we just couldn’t get out of it. You’re not going to contain them the entire evening, and they eventually broke through. If we could have got to the end of that second period at 0-0, that would have been huge for us. But the top line was buzzing us, and they eventually scored, and good players will do that.”
At 14:02 of the middle period, Kessel found Brandt on the edge of the crease for a redirect behind Butters.
“She’s a big goalie, so she takes up quite a bit of the net,” Brandt said. “So I think we’ve just got to get more shots and keep getting the rebounds, because she left a few rebounds out there for us; we just weren’t quite burying those.”
Menefee picked the top corner to double the lead a minute before the second intermission.
“It was nice to finally get that first one after a lot of hard work and some consecutive shifts in their zone, and the dam finally broke, so to speak,” Frost said. “Able to get that one at the end of the second was a huge goal as well.”
Becky Kortum found Brandt coming off the bench and cruising down the slot 4:20 into the third period, and the rookie went upstairs for her 14th goal on the year. Beyond the three goals, the Gophers had to be content with ringing shots off iron, as they hit at least four pipes along the way.
“It wasn’t our day with the bounces,” Brandt said. “Some days they go in and we get 10 goals.”
The Mavericks fell for the fifth game in a row after losing only twice through their first eight contests.
“We were scoring on the power play when we were winning games,” Means said. “The goaltending has been the exact same, we’ve still managed to kill penalties, but the one component that has let us down has been the power play right now.”
MSU failed to convert on five opportunities with the advantage, including four in the final stanza when it had a 14-7 margin in shots on goal. A big reason for that was Räty, who came up big on several occasions, including a glove save near the end of the Mavericks’ final power play.
“It hit our ‘D’ and like changed directions, and I was kind of surprised, but good thing I got my glove there,” she said.
Through much of the game, Minnesota State was attacking the goaltender’s other hand.
“They’ve had some Finish players throughout the years, and they know that my blocker side might be my weakness, but I’ve been working a lot on my blocker, so I don’t know if that’s my weakness anymore,” Räty said.
The Gophers were held to less than four goals for the first time this season, and Butters was a big reason why.
“She’s been great,” Means said. “She’s had a tremendous attitude from last spring all the way through. Since I’ve been here, we’ve never had goaltending like this over this type of extended streak. She’s been awesome. She made some big saves tonight or that game maybe could have gotten away from us a little earlier, and she kept us in there.”
Butters saved 34 shots on the night; she’ll try to prevent Minnesota from making more history when the puck drops at 4:07 p.m. on Saturday for the final game of the series.