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  • Minnesota Splits Weekend Series with Bemidji



    Bemidji State hosted Minnesota this weekend. This is always an important WCHA match up, as Minnesota often has difficulty bypassing Bemidji’s defense. Last season the Gophers were victorious in all four match ups, but during the ‘14-’15 season their record against the Beavers was 2-2-1. This also isn’t the same team from last year, as nine core players graduated, though star goalie Brittni Mowat is still around to tend their net. As this was an away game, I did not personally attend. However, Minnesota offers a free live audio broadcast, for which links can be found on their schedule page on gophersports.com.

    Friday’s game was a quiet one until third period.  Neither team put up much of an offense first period, though Peters made an impressive save when the puck bounced at to Summer Thibodeau at the crease. In fact the best Gopher attack occurred during Kate Schipper’s hooking penalty at 14:37 when Cara Piazza and Dani Cameranesi attempted shorties and Schipper followed up with an attempt right after she returned to play.

    Second period was in many ways a continuation of the first, though the Gophers were finally on the attack. Piazza, Caitlin Reilly, Megan Wolfe, and Lee Stecklein all had great chances, but the Beaver defense completely shut Minnesota down. With only a handful of whistles the uneventful period was over.

    After third period started Beaver Lisa Laiti took an interference penalty at 2:55. However, Minnesota didn’t get full use of their power play, as Wolfe also took an interference penalty at 4:10. Thirteen seconds later and Sydney Baldwin joined her in the box for hooking. With a two skater advantage Bemidji finally blasted through Minnesota’s defense as Lauren Miller scored through Sidney Peters’ five hole at 6:00. Emma Terres and Emily Bergland had the assists.

    Still, Minnesota wasn’t out of this fight. Cameranesi tied things up at 8:05, with assistance from Patti Marshall and Kelly Pannek, before going on to score a second time at 10:39. Pannek and Sophie Skarzynski assisted on this backdoor goal. Minnesota widened their lead at with Reilly’s goal at 15:09, Sarah Potomak assisting. Laiti went back to the box for interference again at 17:53, but Gophers did not convert. With that Minnesota won 3-1.

    Saturday’s game started with action when the puck unexpectedly bounced off the side boards and flew into Minnesota’s crease. Then before Peters could cover Summer Thibodeau tapped it home at 1:21. Melissa Hunt had the assist. Bemidji was playing more physically than they typically do and kept the Gophers on the outside of their zone, refusing them solid shooting lanes. Piazza pushed Alexis Joyce into the boards and went to the box for checking at 10:35, but the Beavers didn’t push that hard on their power play, since they were already leading and tend to lock into a defensive siege at that point in the game. Still, by the end of the period shots were 9-5, Bemidji’s favor, which shows how well they can shut Minnesota down.

    Early second period there was quite a mess in Minnesota’s crease, but Peters made the save. Apparently during the game there were a lot of uncalled high sticks, mostly by Bemidji players, which had Brad Frost upset enough the commentators had to mention it. The Gophers pulled out their best offense and rained shots down on Mowat, but she caught or deflected everything, which included second and third rebound shots. Stecklein was called for fairly light interference at 18:21, which had Frost up in arms over more serious ignored penalties by the other side. At least Minnesota was having a better time winning faceoffs during this game than they had the day before.

    Stecklein’s penalty ran into third period and then harmlessly expired. Then Taylor Williamson was cross-checked by Laiti at 2:43, sending the sophomore to the box. Bemidji successfully killed the penalty and went on a power play of their own at 6:04 when Schipper took a high sticking penalty. The Beavers actually had a great chance when Peters couldn’t find the puck in her crease and there was a mad scramble that resulted in some shoving after Peter landed in goal, but she kept the puck out. Piazza went back to the box for checking at 9:56 and apparently Frost didn’t even want to talk with the referee after that call. The penalty expired without incident.

    Three quarters of the way through the period Joyce took Reilly down and there was no call. However, Gopher got right back on her skates and kept playing, quickly drawing an interference penalty on Thibodeau at 15:35. The rink burst into booing, furious that Minnesota had a late game chance to tie. However, their worries were for naught and the penalty ran its full two minutes uninterrupted. Peters was pulled with 1:20 left in the game for the skater advantage, which allowed Ciscely Nelson an empty netter goal at 19:15, Terres assisting. Despite putting 31 shots on goal and attempting many more, the Gophers were unable to bypass Mowat, earning the senior her first shutout of the season. Minnesota fell to Bemidji 2-0.

    Interestingly, this wasn’t the only unanticipated outcome around the league this weekend. Though they won Friday and got the extra shootout point Saturday, Wisconsin could only tie Ohio during their second game. Then North Dakota and St. Cloud State split their series, with the first game a 1-0 win for UND and the second 3-2 for STCS. Finally, and most excitingly, ECAC division Union College ended a 55-game win drought by beating Penn State 4-2. Will there be more surprises on Friday when Minnesota hosts Duluth? We’ll just have to see.

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