The Gophers women’s hockey team opened the best-of-three first round of the WCHA playoffs with a 3-1 victory over Bemidji State before an announced 1,234 at Ridder Arena on Friday night.

All three goals for the Gophers (24-5-5) came from defensemen: Katie Robinson in the first period, fellow freshman Patti Marshall in the second and captain Lee Stecklein on the power play in the third. Nine different players recorded a point for the Gophers, and Sidney Peters made seven saves as the Gophers outshot the Beavers 35-8.

“We’re happy with the win,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “Bemidji State does such a good job of clogging things up in the middle, in particular in their zone. Anytime we can spread that thing out and get some traffic in front and get it to the net, it’s to our advantage. Overall that was pretty big for our defensemen, for us to get three goals from them.”

Haley Mack ruined the Gophers’ shutout bid with a third-period goal, and Brittni Mowat made 24 saves for the Beavers (11-19-3), who beat the Gophers at home 2-0 in October.

“Thinking back to the first time we played them, we won the first game and ended up losing the second game,” Marshall said. “I think we are going to come strong because we know they’re going to come back stronger. I think it’ll be a good game tomorrow.”

Game 2 of the series is Saturday afternoon, and the Gophers, national champions each of the past two seasons, will advance to the WCHA Final Face-Off next weekend at Ridder Arena with a victory.

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