The Gophers swept St. Cloud State in the first round of the WCHA playoffs this weekend at Ridder Arena, due in part to a historic scoring outburst.
Minnesota scored four goals in 57 seconds during the second period of Saturday’s game — the fastest four-goal stretch in program history. It helped the Gophers (34-1-1) to a 7-1 victory over the Huskies (4-27-5) after a 4-1 victory Friday.
“It was huge for us because we were kind of struggling to score,” sophomore Hannah Brandt said. “It shows the kind of offensive talent we have, and we [have] just got to keep playing like that and keep that going the rest of the playoffs.”
Minnesota will play for the WCHA Final Face-Off championship next weekend in Bemidji. The tournament winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, though the Gophers will likely make it regardless of the outcome.
Minnesota junior Meghan Lorence and sophomores Brandt and Maryanne Menefee led the Gophers over the weekend with two goals apiece. Sophomore goalie Amanda Leveille made 27 saves.
Menefee, Lorence, freshman Kate Schipper and junior Rachel Ramsey scored for Minnesota on Friday. After a scoreless first period, the Gophers outshot the Huskies 35-9 over the last two periods.
“We had some good chances in the first,” Lorence said. “I think we outplayed them a lot, but they played really well defensively.”
The Gophers broke through 25 seconds into the second period on a goal from Menefee. Lorence and Schipper added goals later in the period, and Ramsey added the final goal early in the third.
St. Cloud State looked sharper Saturday and generated two scoring chances in the first five minutes, but to no avail. Gophers senior Kelly Terry scored the first goal of the game 10:14 into the first period.
Minnesota then used the four-goal frenzy to pull away in the second period. That outburst included goals from Lorence, senior Sarah Davis, Brandt and Menefee.
“That tends to happen with our team,” Terry said. “It’s like, one goal, the floodgates open.”
Gophers freshman Kate Flug scored the second goal of her career two minutes into the third period, and Brandt added her second goal late in the game.
Minnesota was especially strong on special teams over the weekend. It went 4-for-6 on the power play while holding the Huskies scoreless with an extra skater.
“We’ve settled into our five on each unit,” head coach Brad Frost said. “They know what to do regardless of what the opposition is taking away. They’re doing a great job reading them.”
The Gophers haven’t lost since Nov. 17 and are 83-1-1 in the past 85 games. They clinched the WCHA regular-season title Feb. 14 against Wisconsin and have outscored opponents 27-2 since.
Minnesota is shooting for its third straight WCHA and NCAA championship.
The NCAA tournament starts March 14.
“We know the teams are out to get us,” Lorence said, “but we just have to stay calm and play our game like we know how to do.”