As Minnesotans, it’s wonderful to have our favorite team be completely dominant and trounce all over every opponent on the schedule. That sort of winning doesn’t happen a lot here; we’re not jaded by years and years of great teams.
Having said that, playing close, highly competitive games that could go either way is fun.
The weekend rematch of last season’s NCAA championship game against the University of Wisconsin Badgers was serious fun.
With a Ridder Arena record attendance of 3,400 behind them, the Gophers beat the Badgers 4-1 on Saturday largely in part due to spectacular play by goaltender Noora Räty and the defensive effort in front of her.
After a scoreless first period, Wisconsin started the second period on a power play and absolutely hammered Räty. A 1-0 Wisconsin lead seemed inevitable as the Gopher defense did their best to keep up with an offensive onslaught, until Räty made a couple of absolutely outstanding saves. After that, the momentum turned and everyone in attendance was reminded who the best goalie in NCAA women’s hockey is.
Off of this momentum, the Gophers charged down to the other end of the rink and netted all four of the game’s goals before the start of the third period. Maryanne Menefee lead the charge with the first goal of the game.
Arguably this season’s biggest offensive star, Amanda Kessel nabbed the second goal and junior Sarah Davis tallied the third. The final tally for the University of Minnesota on the afternoon was scored by senior Becky Kortum. All goals were scored during even-strength play.
To nobody’s surprise, the Badgers came back on Sunday ready for revenge. The second game in the series was undoubtedly the Gopher’s greatest challenge to date. Once again, Räty was rock-solid with the 92nd win of her career and her seventh shutout on the season. Fellow Finnish native Mira Jalosuo broke the scoreless tie in the third period for the win.
The win was hard-fought and well deserved. In his post-game comments, head coach Brad Frost stated that even if the scoreboard had read 1-0 Wisconsin at the final buzzer, he would have been extremely proud of Minnesota’s play.
On the other end of the ice from Räty, Wisconsin goaltender Alex Rigsby was fantastic between the pipes and kept Wisconsin in the game for all three periods in Sunday’s game.
At 9:14, while on the power play, Sarah Davis fed the puck to the blue line where Jalosuo was ready with a stellar one-timer that rocketed past Rigsby to make it 1-0. That scored remained, until Kessel dumped the puck towards the ropes for an empty-netter with ten seconds remaining in play.
The Gophers have just one series left before they break for the holidays. Next weekend they will be on the road against Bemidji State University. The puck drops at 7 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday.