After failing to hold onto a two-goal third-period lead Friday, Minnesota wanted to be more mentally tough Saturday to close out the first half at Ridder Arena.
Mission accomplished, as the Gophers blew out Minnesota-Duluth 5-0 on Saturday.
“It definitely pissed us off a little bit. We wanted to come out with energy and finish 2017 with a win,” said freshman Taylor Wente. “We definitely wanted to win this game a lot.”
Minnesota scored five times in the first 40 minutes and closed out the game with redshirt senior goaltender Sidney Peters rebounding from Friday, stopping all 18 shots faced for her second shutout of the year.
“I thought (Peters) was solid, she was very square to the puck, making the saves she’s supposed to make,” Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said.
Wente’s line with Nicole Schammel and Grace Zumwinkle led the charge for a second straight night. All three players celebrated goals. Schammel finished with two and fed Grace Zumwinkle on an odd-woman rush with 8.7 seconds remaining in the second period to put Minnesota (15-5-2, 10-4-2-0 WCHA) ahead by five.
“It was huge that we were able to prove to ourselves that we can finish out games. It’s just a really big win for us,” Schammel said.
Both teams had opportunities before Wente opened a stretch of three Gopher goals in 4:05 when her wrist shot went over the shoulder of Minnesota-Duluth (9-11-1, 5-8-1-1 WCHA) goaltender Jessica Convery. Schammel followed up 41 seconds later.
Sophie Skarzynski got her sixth goal of the season as Minnesota ended the first up 3-0 on 9 shots.
The Gopher defense, burned in transition Friday, was more intelligent Saturday, according to Frost. Minnesota’s forwards were in position to get back when the Bulldogs had the puck and limited Duluth’s chances in front of the net.
“Going into the third period it gave us a boost of energy”
“(Minnesota) did a good job of forcing us to the perimeter today, really getting sticks in their D zone so we weren’t generating much. We couldn’t get them through,” UMD head coach Maura Crowell said. “We missed the net a lot, but they seemed to block a lot too.”
After Schammel scored on the power play, Zumwinkle’s last-minute goal was important to Minnesota’s mindset.
“Going into the third period it gave us a boost of energy,” said Zumwinkle, who is tied with Schammel for the team lead with 11 goals apiece.
Convery finished with 19 saves for Minnesota Duluth.
Minnesota is off until Jan. 5 when it faces the Minnesota Whitecaps in an exhibition game. After a 5-4-1 start to the season, the Gophers end the first half 10-1-1 in the team’s last 12 games.
While the second half awaits, Schammel said the team might have Saturday found their key to closing out games.
“Just playing hard and staying on our toes and not being reactive to what the other team is doing,” she said.