The No. 2 Minnesota women’s hockey team’s high-powered offense found itself in an unfamiliar position when it looked at the scoreboard at the end of its two games this weekend in Cambridge, Mass.: shutout, twice.
The Gophers struggled offensively this weekend at No. 9 Harvard, losing the first game Friday, 1-0, and salvaging a tie Saturday, 0-0.
With the tough weekend, Minnesota falls to 13-3-2 while the Crimson improve to 7-3-2.
The trip to Harvard marked the final two games of nonconference play for the Gophers in the regular season.
There was strong play between two of the best goalies in the nation in Minnesota freshman Noora Räty and Harvard senior Christina Kessler .
The Crimson broke up the 0-0 tie Friday 33 seconds into the final period as Liza Ryabkina scored the only goal of the weekend after killing a Harvard power play.
“They got a good shot off,” Minnesota defender Michelle Maunu s aid. “It’s kind of hard in those situations when you’re just getting done with a penalty.”
Usually a team with a high shot total, Minnesota was held to just 24 shots on goal — the lowest of the season. Harvard had 21 shots on goal in Friday’s contest.
“We got shots on net, but they weren’t quality,” junior captain Emily West said. “We were just throwing stuff on net and we didn’t really test the goalie all weekend.”
It was the first time since Nov. 17, 2007 that the Gophers had been shutout in a loss .
Saturday’s game saw both goalies at their best, with neither allowing a goal.
Räty saved her best game of the year when the Gophers needed it most, tying a career-best 39 saves in the shutout.
“She played tremendous. It’s not too often that you get a shutout and don’t win a hockey game,” Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said.
Kessler did not give up a goal on the weekend, totaling 53 saves. Coming into the series, she was fourth in the country in save percentage at .940.
It was the first time since a Jan. 30, 1999 tie with New Hampshire that the Gophers ended a game tied at zeros.
West, who led the Gophers in shots over the weekend , said the team needed to focus on playing to its level over the weekend.
“It’s almost like we kind of underestimated ourselves against them,” West said. “We pulled through [Saturday] with a tie, but we know what we have to do to be a better team.”
The Gophers found themselves in the penalty box often this weekend, spending 28 minutes in the box over the two games.
Playing in an Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference game, Maunu said the team knew the referees were going to be calling a tighter game, so extra penalties were to be expected.
“We just need to get away from that a bit and keep our sticks down a bit more,” Maunu said. “The different reffing style was a little hard on us.”
While the Gophers may have tallied too many penalties, the penalty kill was effective enough not to allow a goal in 14 power-play opportunities.
Although the Gophers failed to score a goal this weekend, Frost said there was some good to come from the series.
“I think we did a lot of really good things, in particular, defensively and on our kill,” Frost said. “I told the team, ‘I think we’ll probably end up playing Harvard again sometime down the road,’ and we’ll be a little more prepared for them.”
Minnesota will resume conference play next weekend with North Dakota.