MANKATO, Minn. — Amanda Kessel apparently likes playing on Friday nights.
For the second consecutive week, she had at least a hat trick in the opening game of a series, this time a pure hat trick in the second period of Minnesota’s 8-1 win at Minnesota State.
“Three complete periods, 60 minutes of hockey, which we’ve really been harping on our kids here after the last couple of weeks to do,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “[We] got contributions from a multitude of players.”
No contribution was bigger than that of Kessel.
“Usually, I have a tough time playing here,” she said. “It’s only my second time; I was out my freshman year.”
Of late, she hasn’t had a tough time playing anywhere. Kessel took her game up a noticeable notch or two in the second period as Minnesota (23-0-0, 17-0-0 WCHA) put the game out of reach.
“A two-goal lead – that’s not very safe,” Kessel said. “They have some people on their team that can score, so I think we knew in the locker room that we needed a few more to seal the deal.”
The junior wing is now two points shy of 200 for her career.
“She’s the best player in college hockey and I don’t know if there could even be an honest debate about it,” Mavericks’ coach Eric Means said. “We talked all week, we’ve got to contain her. You’re probably not going to keep her off of the scoreboard, but you got to keep her to one or two. She ended up getting a hat trick and a helper on another and that’s too much.”
The Gophers received a big first period from Kelly Terry. The junior center assisted on all three goals in the frame as her team took a 3-1 lead on goals from Rachael Bona, Rachel Ramsey and Becky Kortum.
“This is probably one of [Terry's] best games,” Frost said. “You can really hear her talking on the ice, but there were several times where she was leading the rush, the puck got turned over, and she was the first backchecker back. Sometimes she doesn’t contribute a ton on the scoreboard, but her impact on the game is really big.”
Lauren Smith answered the first goal with one for the Mavericks (9-13-3, 5-11-3 WCHA), her 17th tally of the season.
“We gave up one on a tough bounce in front of our net, but we score right away to tie it back up,” Means said. “I felt bad for [Minnesota State goalie] Danielle [Butters] tonight. She’s played so well for us, and there’s a couple in that first period I’m sure she’d like to have back.”
Neither starting goaltender was around by end of the second period. Amanda Leveille saw her first action since November in relief of Noora Räty over the final 40 minutes and Erin Krichiver replaced Butters after Minnesota’s sixth goal. The Mavericks duo faced 45 shots, while their teammates could only muster 12 against the Gophers’ tandem.
Minnesota got third period goals from Meghan Lorence and Bona. Sarah Davis also had three assists for the Gophers.
“It seemed like anyone who was out there managed to get something going and I was fortunate to get a couple points, which felt nice after kind of a drought of a season,” Davis said.
Davis was a teammate of Terry for Canada at the recent Meco Cup.
“I think her confidence has definitely grown,” Davis said. “She’s on a new line, too, so kind of frees up a little bit. She’s definitely playing really well for us, which is great.”
The teams conclude the series at 3:07 p.m. CST Saturday at All Season Arena in Mankato.
“We’ve just got to eventually run them out of room and not give up the inside of the ice,” Means said. “We know we’re going to give up a lot of shots and as long as we can keep the quality, not a great quality for them. I thought for parts of the game we were doing that.”