What a difference a name can make.
At 5:11 p.m. on Friday afternoon, an hour after Bemidji State wrapped up a 2-0 victory over the Gophers, the Bemidji Economic Development Authority sold the naming rights to the Beavers’ home arena, the Bemidji Regional Event Center (BREC), to Sanford Health.
The Sanford Center, as the BREC was known from that moment forward, proved to be a much more welcoming venue to the Gophers, who took a 5-0 lead after two periods Saturday en route to a 6-2 victory.
While the Gophers took care of business Saturday, they played with an uncharacteristic torpor Friday, unusual for a team that has the talent and breakaway speed to light up the scoreboard in a hurry.
“We started pretty slow again and didn’t really, to be honest, get much better throughout the whole night,” head coach Brad Frost said of Friday’s performance.
Goalie Noora Raty saved 29 of 30 shots, keeping the Gophers alive well into the third period, but they never recovered after senior Erin Cody gave the Beavers a 1-0 lead early in the first.
Cody, who added an empty-net goal late in the third, leads a Beavers squad that has surprised a few teams this year, including upsets of No. 1 Mercyhurst, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota.
Losing to a team that the Gophers have dominated previously hasn’t been all that uncommon this season. In October they were swept at home by UND, a team they’d beaten 28 consecutive times.
“As I’ve been saying all year, the parity [in the WCHA] is off the charts,” Frost said. “If you bring a poor effort like we did last night, it’s going to bite you.”
After losing to BSU for the first time since 2007 and just the third time in 49 games, Frost showed the team video of their performance in an effort to correct what had gone wrong.
“Video doesn’t lie,” Frost said. “Players got to see what it looked like from a different perspective last night and how we needed to get quite a bit better for tonight and really bring the effort and the energy right from the opening puck drop.”
They brought into Saturday’s game a refined focus and a worry of falling further behind in the WCHA.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was on our mind,” Anne Schleper said of the WCHA standings. “But I think we also kind of knew that Friday was a disrespect to the M on the front of our jersey, and we had to show and prove something coming out here on Saturday.”
They certainly did, scoring early and often. Sarah Davis scored at the 13:34 mark in the first. Amanda Kessel scored on a breakaway goal a minute later and Kelly Terry capped off the one-minute, five-second torrent with a quick strike off the ensuing face-off.
BSU pulled goalie Zuzana Tomcikova, who shut out the Gophers on Friday, after the three-goal first period, but her replacement, Alana McElhinney, didn’t fare much better.
McElhinney allowed second-period goals to Megan Bozek and Jen Schoullis as the Gophers played more like the No. 7 team in the nation, not the sixth-best team in the WCHA.
Anne Schleper added another goal for good measure midway through the third, while Bemidji scored two insignificant goals to make it a 6-2 final.
“We had a lot more energy just from the first drop of the puck, and we kept going from there,” Terry said.
The Gophers jumped back into a tie for fourth with BSU with the win. Although they sit 13 points out of first at the season’s midway point, Frost isn’t too worried.
“I’m not overly concerned with where we’re at in the league right now,” he said.
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