At Ridder Arena this weekend, fans witnessed tight hockey games for more than two hours of play.
No. 2 Minnesota (25-4-1, 15-4-1-0) split its weekend series against Minnesota-Duluth (12-12-2, 8-8-2-2), losing 3-2 in overtime on Saturday but winning 5-3 on Sunday. Neither team had a lead of more than one goal until the final minute of Sunday's game. Goaltender Sydney Scobee made 26 saves, winning her ninth game of the season.
Head coach Brad Frost said the Gophers responded well after Saturday's loss. "We had to fight for everything we got," he said. "The power play was good, and it was a fun weekend overall."
On Sunday, the Bulldogs opened the scoring at 9:31 of the first period. Right winger Anneke Linser backhanded a shot past Scobee after a scramble in front of the blue paint. It was Linser's sixth goal of the season.
Minnesota answered at 3:10 of the second period when center Catie Skaja banked a shot off of Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Maddie Rooney and into the net. It was Skaja's fifth goal of the season. At 4:21 of the period, left winger Sarah Potomak banked a shot off of Rooney's skate from the corner behind the goal line, giving the Gophers a 2-1 lead. It was Potomak's sixth goal of the season.
The Bulldogs tied the game at 5:12 of the second. Right winger Ryleigh Houston beat Scobee for her seventh goal of the season.
The two teams traded goals until left winger Nicole Schammel gave Minnesota the lead at 16:37 of the third period. While the Gophers were on a power play, Schammel flicked a wrist shot past Rooney after Rooney denied center Taylor Wente. It was Schammel's 11th goal of the season. Wente added an empty net goal at 19:23 to clinch the victory for the Gophers.
Schammel said Minnesota needed to get the win in regulation.
"It's nice to win in regulation," Schammel said. "When you go into overtime and lose a game, it feels worse than if you lose in regulation."
Gophers drop game one in overtime
For the third time in four games this season against Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota played into overtime. The Bulldogs exacted revenge on the Gophers after losing in overtime on Jan. 5.
Minnesota-Duluth won 3-2 in overtime. Bulldogs left winger Naomi Rogge scored the game-winning goal at 3:39 of overtime, beating Minnesota goaltender Alex Gulstene on a rebound after Gulstene stopped Rogge's initial shot. It was Rogge's 10th goal of the season.
Frost said Rooney was the reason why Minnesota didn't win. "Rooney was dialed in and made some great saves," he said. "We had some great opportunities to win that game and we didn't. It wasn't the outcome that we wanted, but I thought we played well."
Potomak opened the scoring at 13:55 of the first. Center Taylor Heise batted the puck out of the air after Bulldogs defender Jalyn Elmes tried to make a pass. The puck landed and Potomak whipped a wrist shot past Rooney for her sixth goal of the season.
Potomak said Heise deserves credit for her goal. "That goal was all her," Potomak said. "She forechecked and the puck came to me. I shot as hard I could, hoping for the best."
Both teams battled back and forth into the third. Neither the Gophers nor the Bulldogs found a winning goal in the third period, so the game went into overtime.
Rogge's overtime winner ended the Gopher's three-game winning streak. Rooney made 42 saves and was named the game's second star.
Minnesota's next series will be against Minnesota State (9-12-5, 3-11-3-2) Feb. 15-16 at Ridder Arena. The game on Feb. 15 begins at 7:07 p.m. and the game on Feb. 16 begins at 4:07 p.m. It will be the Gophers' last home series of the regular season.
Skaja said Minnesota needed to win to avoid its first losing streak of the season.
"Coming out with the loss yesterday was hard for us," Skaja said. "We were focused on the future rather than the present, and that win helps us going into the last four games."