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  • Gophers Sweep Lindenwood in Season Opener


    In a special pre-game ceremony last year’s co-captain Hannah Brandt raised the University of Minnesota Women’s Hockey team’s seventh NCAA National Championship banner to the rafters. Lee Stecklein, last season’s other co-captain and this year’s sole captain, was on the ice with the team for the ceremony. The team also had the national championship trophy, Natty, out on display for photos throughout the game. However, as delightful as it was to acknowledge last year’s successes, the real focus was kicking off a near season of hockey against brand new opponents.

    In fact, Friday night was the first time the Gophers had faced Lindenwood University. The Lindenwood Lions, who joined the NCAA for the 2011-2012 season, have an overall league record of 39-118-12 and will host the 2017 Women’s Frozen Four in St. Charles, Missouri. Ideally, Minnesota will end their season in Lindenwood’s rink.

    It was a fast game. From start to finish the game was over in less than two hours with few whistles halting play. The teams spent first period feeling each other out. Play was mostly in Lindenwood’s zone, with goaltender Jolene deBruyn fending off shots, but defense kept the Gophers from having any stellar chances against her. In the later half of the period Dani Cameranesi’s stick accidentally caught on a Lion, nearly toppling her, and she went to the box for slashing at 16:35. During the penalty kill Sarah Potomak wrapped around the Lions’ net and passed to Patti Marshall for a quick shot on goal, which was the Gophers’ best attempt of the period, but deBruyn stopped that puck as well.

    Minnesota ramped up their attack second period. They buzzed around Lindenwood’s net piling on shots until Potomak popped Cameranesi’s rebounded puck through a crack in deBruyn’s defense on the left side at 1:28. The Gophers continued their offense as bodies started hitting the ice. Eventually there was an absolute mess in Lindenwood’s crease and Lion Emma Hare received a cross-checking penalty at 4:23. While Cara Piazza had a great shot on the resulting power play that ultimately went wide, the Gophers spent most of the two minutes puck cycling. Caitlin Reilly took an interference penalty at 7:24, but she had a great shot on goal right after Minnesota ran out her time.

    Piazza eventually scored with a low shot through traffic after she caught a loose puck at 12:43. Stecklein assisted. Lindsay Agnew had a great break away up center ice with a Lion on her heels, but neither she nor Kate Schipper a minute later, were able to beat the goalie. Erin Near took a slashing penalty at 16:22, but again the Gophers were unable to convert. As the period drew to a close, Megan Wolfe made a long shot from the right point, which bounced off a skater into goal at 19:44. Kelsey Cline and Reilly had the assists.

    Minnesota eased up some third period, allowing Lindenwood more time in their zone. However, they spent most of the period cycling the puck around the perimeter and their attempts on goal generally stopped by Gopher defense. The last two minutes of the game were a sustained Lion attack, pulling deBruyn at 1:19 for the skater advantage. However, none of their ten shots to actually reach the goaltender throughout the entire game cracked Sidney Peters’ defense. Minnesota won 3-0 by shutout.

    Despite the final score, Saturday was a much tighter game. Lindenwood replaced deBruyn with Morgan Skinner, while Minnesota kept Peters in net. It was a much more physical game than the night before, with skaters pressing for advantage as best they could. A couple minutes into the game Sierra Smith earned a hooking penalty and Minnesota mounted an offensive defense, refusing to allow Lindenwood to even cycle the puck in their zone. A minute after the penalty expired Potomak shot the puck into Skinner’s center mass, but the goaltender didn’t hang onto the puck, which allowed Reilly to snag it and knock it home on the left side at 5:32. Alex Woken had the second assist.

    As Lion Taylor Girard entered Minnesota’s zone Sydney Baldwin tangled with her in an attempt to stop her progress and they both went down in the blue line. This sent the Gopher defender to the box for interference at 8:41. Just seconds before the power play expired Corbin Welsh flew up the left side, shot high and bested Peters to score unassisted at 10:41. There were quite a few downs and players slammed into the boards, but first period ended with the score tied.

    Gophers took the lead again early in the second. Agnew and Cameranesi had a beautiful tic-tack-toe play that resulted in Agnew scoring from just right of the crease. While the Gophers’ passing in both games clearly reflected the earliness of the season—often the intended recipient wasn’t in place to complete the pass—the Lions did an excellent job disrupting passes and stealing the puck this game. Lillian Marchant was called for hooking, but the Gophers kept the puck in play so that it was delayed until Hare was called for holding the stick at 5:05. With the unexpected 5-on-3 play Minnesota used their timeout to confirm their power play plan. It involved extensive puck cycling. Eventually, Potomak passed up to Kelly Pannek at the top of the left circle, who immediately sent it to Megan Wolfe in the slot, and she shot it high into goal at 6:56.

    Lindenwood kept their head in the game. Girard raced up the right side, shot from the circle, and scored, top left pocket at 8:33. Carrie Atkinson and Kirsten Martin assisted. They also rebuffed Minnesota’s attacks, which included Near taking a puck to her face mask. When Britannia Gillanders checked a Gopher it resulted in four bodies laying Lindenwood’s crease, Skinner sitting in the net, and she went to the box at 14:17. Minnesota’s advantage didn’t last for long, as Pannek hooked Martin, knocking her into the boards at 15:27, so she had to sit as well. When the period ended it still very much felt like the one goal game it was, despite the fact Minnesota was outshooting Lindenwood 22-7.

    That changed third period. Pannek carried the puck from the boards to the center of the zone and passed to Cameranesi, who tipped it into Skinner’s open backdoor just 56 seconds into the period. Stecklein had the second assist. Less than a minute later at 1:46 Woken scored from the bottom of the right circle with the puck hitting the crossbar as it flew into goal. Reilly and Potomak had the assists. The Lions made a few sweeps into Minnesota’s zone, but they were mostly on defense again in part because Schipper kept the puck in their zone for extended periods.

    At 9:38 Brad Frost replaced Peters in goal with Serena D’Angelo, giving the freshman goaltender her college debut. A few minutes later Cameranesi wheeled around Lindenwood’s zone before scoring with a low shot through traffic at 14:31, Pannek and Baldwin assisting. This also prompted Lindenwood to use their timeout. Shannon Morris-Reade took an interference penalty at 17:39, which Lindenwood killed. When the final buzzer sounded Minnesota had won 6-2, successfully sweeping the Lions.

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