BEMIDJI, Minn. — The Gophers women’s hockey team wrapped up a dominant first half of the season with a sweep over Bemidji State this weekend.
Minnesota won 5-1 Friday and 5-0 Saturday in Bemidji, Minn., despite playing without three freshmen.
The Gophers won their 16th-consecutive road game Friday to set a new Division I record. They extended the streak to 17 games Sunday.
Head coach Brad Frost said he was ecstatic about the team’s first half of the season.
“Obviously, we’re not going to sit on that, and we know the second half is what matters,” Frost said. “But it’s a pretty special team to win 20 in a row to start a season.”
Junior forward Amanda Kessel, the nation’s leading scorer with 54 points, scored three goals in Saturday’s win.
Senior defenseman Mira Jalosuo scored Minnesota’s first goal 17:12 into the first period on a power play. Jalosuo tipped in a shot by sophomore defenseman Rachel Ramsey.
“It gets pretty rough going into the second period with a 0-0 ballgame,” Ramsey said. “It was nice to break the ice there, especially on a power play.”
Kessel scored the first of her three goals with 40 seconds left in the first period, a backhander over the Bemidji State goalie’s shoulder.
She scored again on the power play 2:55 into the second period and once more at the 17:33 mark of the third.
It was Kessel’s second hat trick of the season.
Kessel said the Gophers knew Bemidji would bunch up down low and that they’d have to score gritty goals.
“We didn’t have any pretty ones, but that happens in some games,” Kessel said.
Senior forward Becky Kortum scored Minnesota’s fourth goal Saturday shortly before Kessel completed her hat trick.
Kortum had a goal and an assist in both games.
Kortum said Friday that it took the team a while to get its legs in the series opener.
She said the team has to have adversity somewhere, and right now it might be in the first period.
“I think it’s good for us to fight through stuff like that,” Kortum said.
The two teams entered the second period scoreless Friday before the Gophers scored three goals.
“The second period has been our best all year, and luckily we picked it up,” Kortum said Friday.
The second period was particularly choppy with the referees calling nine penalties between the two teams.
Despite a couple of questionable calls, the Gophers killed the five penalties called against them in the period.
Frost said Friday that it’s really hard to get into a rhythm in a period with so many penalties.
Freshman forward Hannah Brandt scored the team’s first goal halfway into the second period on a 4-on-3.
A shot by Megan Bozek deflected off Kortum’s foot and came to Brandt, who found the net.
Shortly after, Kessel found freshman defenseman Lee Stecklein, who had just gotten out of the penalty box, near the post for a shorthanded goal.
“Amanda just held onto the puck long enough to let that defenseman go down and move the puck over to Lee, and they finished it well,” Frost said Friday.
Meghan Lorence, who spent most of the weekend playing on the team’s top line in place of freshman forward Maryanne Menefee, scored the team’s third goal.
Lorence also replaced Menefee on the team’s top line two weekends ago. She said the change brought a lot of pressure, but she got the feel of it against New Hampshire.
“Playing with Kessel and Hannah, they help me out a lot,” she said Friday. “They’re easy to play with.”
Frost said Menefee and defenseman Milica McMillen were “trying to figure some things out academically” and forward Brook Garzone is on “medical leave.”
But the team’s depth, one of its key strengths, overcame their absences.
Bozek and Kortum added third-period goals to cap Minnesota’s scoring Friday.
The Beavers scored with less than four minutes left to break goalie Noora Räty’s shutout attempt.
With Saturday’s shutout, Räty is five short of tying the NCAA shutout record of 39.
After a first half in which the Gophers outscored opponents 114-12, Frost said the break came at the perfect time.
“We’re going to be challenged a little more in the second half here,” Frost said, “but we’re excited for that challenge, and I’m excited to see how our kids respond.”
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