Saturday’s game was the start Minnesota’s series against Bemidji this weekend. Minnesota starts the game offensively, with Alex Woken crashing into Brittni Mowat’s net less than two minutes into the game. Shortly thereafter, Woken drew a penalty when Jacequeline Kaasa checked her into the boards at 2:19. Most notably on the power play, Nicole Schammel had a great chance on an unattended goal, but she couldn’t get the shot off. When the penalty expired shots were 6-1 Minnesota’s favor, but then the Beavers started putting shots on goal. Then Cara Piazza took down Ciscely Nelson and went to the box for holding at 11:01. The Beavers tied the Gophers on shots during their power play and then briefly pulled ahead, but Minnesota finished first period strong, ending it 14-11, scoreless. At some point in the period Woken left the game with a lower body injury and did not return to the series.
Second period was a study in Gopher possession, as Bemidji was unable to record a single shot on goal. However, while Beavers may not have been able to hang onto the puck, they didn’t allow the Gophers the puck and proper positioning. Dani Cameranesi nearly scored with a lateral shot that tapped the goal line, but then it curved away and flew out of the crease. Then Kippin Keller tried a wraparound, which Mowat denied, and then wound up for another attempt that went high. Minnesota then tried tricking Mowat by passing back and forth as they came down the middle, but when Sarah Potomak finally fired from the side, the puck flew straight into the goaltender’s glove.
Alexis Joyce cross-checked a Gopher into the backboards, earning a penalty at 12:22. On the power play Kater Schipper shot from the left circle, which put the puck in the crease where Cameranesi banged it home after a quick battle for control. Kelly Pannek had the second assist on this 13:44 goal. A few minutes later Taylor Williamson had a breakaway and went one-on-one with the goaltender. However Mowat was wise to her play and stopped the shot. Bemidji made it back into the Gopher’s zone shortly before the period ended, causing a mess at the crease, but the period ended back into the Beavers’ zone with Mowat sitting on the puck.
Minnesota continued their assault third period, but their shots mostly came from the outside and they weren’t able to capitalize on Mowat’s, admittedly small, rebounds. The Beavers were finally putting shots on Sidney Peters again. From the stands it looked like Schipper’s shot bounced off Mowat into net, but the goal light didn’t flash. A Gopher with the puck was taken out at Bemidji’s crease and then Minnesota set up another shot on goal. The puck almost crossed the line, but Mowat log-rolled in the crease to make the save.
Immediately Minnesota tried again, and with a mess of bodies ringing the crease, Pannek shot through it from the sight side, putting the puck into goal over Mowat’s shoulder at 9:19. Sydney Baldwin and Cameranesi assisted. Kelsey Cline took an interference penalty at 10:03, but the Gophers killed it. A couple minutes later, Nicole Schammel flew past the back of Bemidji’s net, passing forward to Cameranesi, who scored with a high shot from just right of the crease at 14:57.
Melissa Hunt went to the box for tripping a Gopher into the backboards at 15:28. On the power play Pannek shot from the right side and Mowat blocked the shot. Schipper caught the rebound off the goalie’s right leg pad at the crease and tossed it into net, earning the goal she had previously been denied at 17:16. Potomak had the second assist. While the puck sailed loose through Minnesota’s crease, Bemidji couldn’t crack Peters’s shutout and the Gophers won 4-0.
Sunday was the Gophers’ annual Teddy Bear Toss. Historically, the team has had issues scoring during this event, and combined with cracking the Beaver offense, it seemed like this would be another late game toss. This seemed especially likely because Bemidji came out on the attack, which only ended when Peters covered up the puck. Baldwin shoved Summer Thibodeau to the ice after the whistle, as she had gotten her stick too close to the goalie. Baldwin and Thibodeau received concurrent penalties, for roughing and slashing respectively at 1:47.
After those penalties expired, Megan Wolfe went to the box at 4:13 for tripping Kaasa as she entered Minnesota’s zone. The Beavers were unable to convert, despite putting some great shots on Peters during the power play. Peters then lost her stick while she was tracking the puck and when one of the defense picked it up to return it to her, a Beaver shot on goal that deflected off the defensewoman’s skates out of the crease. Piazza went away for slashing at 11:09 and during that power play Peters gloved the puck when a Beaver tried for her 5-hole. Then Peters had to make another stellar save when she gloved the puck while standing on one skate. Lauren Miller crashed into her after that save, despite the fact the Beaver who had been closer managed to swerve out of the way, but the goaltender remained standing tall.
As the period wound down Carley Esse took a hooking penalty at 17:01. On the resulting power play Cameranesi passed the puck up to Pannek, who carried it up to the left post and popped it in behind Mowat, which sent the teddy bears flying at 17:11. Lee Stecklein had the second assist. Pannek scored with assistance from Wolfe and this sent the Pannek followed this up with a second goal from the top of the right circle at 17:26. Cameranesi assisted.
Minnesota not only finished first period strong, but started second period in the same vein. Piazza received a tripping penalty at 5:18, which harmlessly expired two minutes later. Williamson made a great shot from the right circle that went straight into Mowat’s glove. Then Cameranesi made her own attempt at the crease, which Bemidji’s goaltender somehow managed to stop, before flipping to the ice.
Then Madison Hutchinson had the puck and she swooped down the middle and through the crease, firing on goal. It looked like Peters had blocked the shot, despite getting blown back into net, but the puck crossed the goal line at 12:16, cutting the Gophers’ lead in half. Kaasa assisted. This goal riled Minnesota again and they spent several shifts creating chaos in Bemidji’s zone. Just as the Gophers were becoming truly frustrated, Cameranesi sinks the puck top right shelf from the right circle at 18:09. Pannek and Potomak assisted.
Unfortunately, third period started with an injury. Just 27 seconds in Miller checked Potomak from behind. She hit the ice, then crashed into the sideboards, head first, and did not get up. Over the course of several minutes a trainer and medic checked and then deemed it safe for her teammates to help her off the ice. It was extremely terrifying to observe, however Nate Wells (@gopherstate on Twitter) said Potomak was seen walking after the game. Hopefully she’s going to be okay.
Miller’s actions earned her a 5-minute major for boarding. Minnesota cycled the puck until there was an absolute mess at the crease. As both teams battled for control, Schipper poked the puck into goal from the left side. The play immediately went under review and was eventually declared no goal. Then Cameranesi went to the box for hooking at 4:18, negating the rest of the power play, which eventually expired.
A couple minutes later Pannek won a faceoff in Minnesota’s zone and passed it to Cameranesi, who then raced up the left side and flipped the puck into goal over Mowat from the top of the left circle at 8:31. The Gophers continued their attack, with Katie Robinson getting a good look, and then Caitlin Reilly had such a great attempt she had thought she scored. A little later Pannek and Miller were shoving in front of Minnesota’s crease and then Emily Bergland pulled Robinson down to the ice without calls. However, when Kiki Radke fell as play moved to the other side of the rink, the referee called interference on Pannek at 18:51, much to her displeasure. The last penalty to the game didn’t make a difference and Minnesota won 4-1, completing the Bemidji sweep.
Next week the Gophers head to Madison to renew the border battle with Wisconsin. This match up is always a delightful explosion of speed, skill, and raw physicality. The only thing that makes this series even more exciting is that the 2pm CT Sunday Dec 4th game is also being televised on Fox Sports Wisconsin/Fox Sports North. This actually kicks off a series of nine WCHA games airing on Fox Sports North. The list also includes Minnesota at Duluth on Jan 13th and the WCHA Final Face-Off Championship on March 5th. For a full list of the airing games, check with foxsports.com.
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