Sunday afternoon the Minnesota Gophers opened their season with an exhibition game against the Korean National Team. Korea hasn’t had the best run of luck on their Midwest tour, as they’ve lost to Shattuck-St. Mary (7-2 on September 13th), Wisconsin (8-0 on September 16th), Bemidji (5-0 on September 20th), and St. Cloud State (4-3 on September 22nd), but they were ready to play when the puck dropped. As for Minnesota, much of their previous offensive power has graduated or been pulled for national team commitments, however, that simply meant the rest of the skaters had a new opportunity to shine.
Grace Zumwinkle did exactly that when she scored on Korean goaltender So Jung Shin with a close up shot just 1:30 into the game. Sophie Skarzynski had the lone assist. Caitlin Reilly then flew up the left side and passed to Lindsay Agnew at the crease, but Shin blocked her shot and Zumwinkle’s attempt on the rebound as well. Minnesota’s Sidney Peters stopped a couple of Korean shots went back to shelling Shin. This included a wonderful attempt by Nicole Schammel down the left side where she skimmed along the edge of the crease, with Shin tracking her every move, and eventually lobbing the puck too high.
There was a ten second delay before the slashing penalty on Korea’s Ye Eun Park began at 12:44. The Gophers started cycling the puck and this only ended at 13:38 when Emily Brown drove the puck into the center of the net from the right side. Zumwinkle and Olivia Knowles assisted on this power play goal. Patti Marshall then blasted the puck from the left point through traffic straight into Shin’s glove. Little of the period was spent in Minnesota’s zone, but at 18:59 Randi Heeso Griffin made a great shot from the left circle that Peters caught with a high glove and then fell onto the ice to complete the save.
Korea managed five shots to Minnesota’s 18 shots in the first period, but the Gophers kept them from making any in the second period. Instead Hee Won Kim took a tripping penalty at 1:10 and Korea had the arduous task of killing it. They succeeded, though it didn’t seem to slow the Gophers’ momentum. In many ways this was Korea’s best period of the evening because while it was still spent in their zone, they sent Minnesota’s shots wide for almost three quarters of the period. Peters was replaced in goal with freshman Alex Gulstene at 12:21, though she didn’t get to do anything until third period.
Taylor Wente flew down the center and shot straight into Shin. Wente tried again from the right circle, using Kippin Keller’s rebound, and slipped the puck into goal just under the crossbar at 3:24. Taylor Williamson had the second assist. There was a flurry of Gopher shots before Williamson nearly scored through Shin’s 5-hole, but the goaltender slapped her legs shut before the puck could cross the goal line. Korea got a couple of shots on goal before Minnesota regained possession. Then Ji Yeon Chai singlehandedly got the puck into Minnesota’s zone after out skating a couple of Gophers and teammate Chae Lin Park’s shot caused quite a mess in the Gophers’ crease, though Gulstene made the save.
Knowles took a tripping penalty at 12:46, but Minnesota didn’t allow Korea to do much with their power play. Instead, Cara Piazza flew down center ice and shot on goal, which Shin blocked, but the puck was left in the crease after she had been knocked to the side. This allowed Alex Woken to swoop in and bang the puck home, scoring the shorthanded goal at 13:28. Korea was unable to convert. With roughly two minutes left on the clock Jin Gyu Lee, who had been one of the better Korean skaters all game, managed a long shot on goal, but was unable to crack Minnesota’s defense. Regulation ended with shots 53-7 in Minnesota’s favor and the Gophers also came away with a 4-0 shutout.
There was a preordained shootout after the match, where Lee, Yu Jung Choi, and Griffin shot for Korea, while Schammel and Piazza shot for Minnesota. Only Schammel found the back of the net. Thus ended Minnesota’s season opener, a wonderfully fun exhibition against future Olympians.
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