Despite the cold Friday night, Ridder Arena had a decent crowd for gopher Women’s Hockey exhibition game against the Minnesota Whitecaps. Both teams were missing players, which left holes for them to fill, though the Whitecaps’ roster fluctuates enough who should be there, though they were only playing with three centers. Most notably for the Whitecaps was that Jocelyn Lamoreux and Mira Jalosuo were missing, though the latter was representing Finland at the Nations Cup. The Gophers’ Lindsay Agnew and Sarah Potomak were also at the Nations Cup, representing Canada, but the team was also missing Alex Woken, due to injury, and Dani Cameranesi.
Though the Gophers started entering the Whitecaps’ zone as soon as the puck dropped, the visitors kept clearing the puck and putting it on Sidney Peters in goal. Minnesota had a nice flurry, with Kate Schipper, Megan Wolfe, and Lee Stecklein all putting great shots on goaltender Alex Rigsby, but they were unable to breach her impression of a wall. The Kendall Coyne zipped down the left side, swooped by the creased, and tapped the puck into goal as she passed—despite Peters dropping to the ice in an attempt to stop it—to score at 6:46. Winny Brown had the lone assist.
Minnesota then had a series of icings before they were finally able to focus concerted effort on Rigsby. This eventually paid off when a shot from the right side got past her into the center of the crease. As the goaltender tried to turn around, multiple Gophers and Whitecaps scrabbled for control and eventually knocked the puck into the open net at roughly the same time as a Gopher landed on Rigsby. The goal went under review, but was eventually declared tying the game at 9:42. Nicole Schammel was determined to be the last to touch the puck, with assists going to Stecklein and Taylor Williamson.
Carrie Holldorf had a great chance to break the tie and tried to confuse Peters before her shot, but the goaltender stopped the puck with a pad save. Instead Cara Piazza was the next to score with a close shot from just inside the left circle, which buried deep in the right side of goal at 14:03. This unassisted goal came after she streaked up the left side, which seemed to be the side both teams preferred for zone entry through out the game. When the period ended shots were 11-14 in the Whitecaps’ favor, but the Gophers were ahead by one in what really mattered.
Second period started with a Gopher goalie change, with Serena D’Angelo replacing Peters. This was likely head coach Brad Frost’s way of getting the younger goaltenders a little more ice time and experience, as there won’t be a lot of low stake chances for that for the rest of the season. The teams traded a few shots and robbed each other with some snazzy puck handling. Then down the left side again Becky Kortum flew before five-holing the puck from the circle to tie the game at 4:44. Meghan Pezon and Brown assisted.
Holldorf downed Kippin Keller along Minnesota’s boards. Then Wolfe made a shot from the slot that Rigsby deflected. It’s been a delightful surprise seeing Wolfe own the ice as a forward, since she’s been such a stalwart fixture on Minnesota’s blue line it hadn’t been clear how well she flourishes in either position. Play pushed back into Gopher territory and there was a mess in the crease. Hannah Brandt put a shot on goal, which D’Angelo blocked, but Chelsey Rosenthal caught the rebound and scored at 10:22. Coyne had the second assist. After that goal there was a mess of bodies along Minnesota’s backboards as the Whitecaps tried to increase their lead. The Gophers not only cleared their zone, but went on the attack. The last five minutes of the period were mostly spent circling Rigsby like she was chum in shark-infested waters. The goaltender had to twist and lunge as her defense repeatedly cleared the zone, occasionally foraying into Gopher territory, until the buzzer sounded.
Third period started with Emma May in goal for the Gophers. This was a delight, because as wonderful as Peters and D’Angelo are, May hasn’t played in a game since her third period debut against Mankato on November 27th, 2015. Unfortunately, May’s period got off to a rocky start as the first shot she took went in top shelf at 1:25. Stephanie Anderson scored that goal from the circle with an assist from Rose Alleva. Keller responded immediately for Minnesota, scoring unassisted seven seconds later at 1:32.
Then Brooke White-Lancette tripped Kelly Pannek, which sent the Gopher crashing into her own backboards and White-Lancette to the penalty box. Minnesota started their power play cycling around the Whitecaps’ zone, but they quickly cleared it. Instead Sydney Baldwin snake up the left side past the goal line and back passed to Williamson for the goal at 6:40, tying the game. By this point in the game the professional team was flagging, but the collegiate team was at full throttle and had finally outshot the Whitecaps. However, despite the Gophers’ assault the Whitecaps kept blocking their shots. Minnesota used their timeout at 9:10, which allowed both teams to rest, and then May saw some action around her crease. Minnesota put another extended volley on Rigsby that eventually had her out of her crease and Coyne had a great shot that went wide, but regulation ended with the teams tied 4-4.
Overtime was a lot of back and forth across the ice as skaters became frantic. Both sides wanted to end things as fast as possible, though that didn’t seem likely. Kortum smashed Caitlin Reilly into the sideboards and a stick shattered on the ice. However, that was mostly ignored as the Gophers were on top of Rigsby yet again as the goaltender did her best to fend them off. Stecklein made a bouncing shot from the bottom of the right circle and the puck flipped over Rigsby’s extended leg into goal at 4:21. Baldwin assisted on her captain’s overtime goal, giving the Gophers a 5-4OT win over the Whitecaps.
As action packed as this game was, it was only the start of the weekend for both teams. Saturday the Whitecaps drove up to Duluth and faced the UMD Bulldog, winning 5-2. Coyne scored twice, while Monique Lamoreux, Brandt, and Anderson tallied the rest of their team’s goals. The Bulldog’s pair came from Sydney Brodt and Domi Crossman. The Gophers also have a second game this weekend, the annual Hockey Hall of Fame Game, which will take place later today, Sunday January 8th, at 3pm in the Braemar Arena in Edina. This is the third year in a row Minnesota has participated in the Hall of Fame game—though they participated in the Hockey City Classic the year before this started—and the first time they face Minnesota State in this non-conference event, as St. Cloud had twice been their previous opponent.