With 3:13 left in the overtime period, Gophers freshman Taylor Wente rocketed the puck into the back of the net off a pass from Caitlin Reilly to seal the 2-1 victory over Mercyhurst last Friday.
That's been the story for Minnesota.
The Gophers are now 8-0-0 on the road after their most recent road series sweeps of Mercyhurst and Mankato. In those four wins, Wente scored six points and had at least one point in each game. Through the first two months of the season, Wente made six goals and three assists which puts her third among Gophers freshmen, behind only Grace Zumwinkle and Patti Marshall.
“She’s been on the verge of starting to produce more over the last few weeks,” said head coach Brad Frost. “She has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.”
Wente has been asked to play center, which is a big step for a freshman. Centers don't just score and create plays, but are also expected to defend and win key faceoffs. Wente plays on a line that features two veterans on the team in Reilly and Nicole Schammel.
Frost said that because Wente is playing with those veterans, she is learning day-in, day-out that she needs to be playing at a high level. The expectations are higher when she is playing with people who have experience playing in major hockey games.
“If I did not have them on my line, I don’t know where I would be,” Wente said. “We all have our strengths and we combine all of those strengths to make a good line.”
Wente has been a part of a freshman class that has seen a lot of ice time. All four freshman skaters have tallied their first collegiate points. Goaltender Alex Gulstene has played in six games (4-1-1). Zumwinkle, Olivia Knowles and Emily Brown have all registered at least four points on the year.
“The freshmen are getting more comfortable with the size and the strength of the game,” Frost said. “Taylor is one of our most intelligent players; she is getting used to the pace and how she has [to] move the puck and jump into space.”
Wente was a four-time All-State and All-Conference honoree in high school. In her senior season, she posted 53 points, including 26 goals in 26 games which made her a Ms. Hockey finalist in 2017.
She, along with a few of her teammates on the Gophers, has two goal medals as a member of the U.S. Women’s Under-18 National Team. She came into her first season with the Gophers as preseason USA All-American.
“[Wente] is a super hard-working forward and she has been doing a great job as a freshman adjusting to the center position; there is a lot more responsibility in the defensive end for a center in college,” Schammel said. “I think with figuring out the defensive end, it has helped her on the offensive end as well.”