The Gophers women’s hockey team used the extra attention it received this week as motivation. They were well aware much of the attention had to do with the idea their 61-game winning streak would end this weekend against rival North Dakota.
That was far from the case in the series opener Saturday at Ridder Arena. The Gophers blew out No. 4-ranked North Dakota 6-1 in front of an announced home crowd of 1,915. The streak is 62 and alive and well.
Gophers freshman Megan Wolfe scored the first two goals of her collegiate career to kick off a four-goal second period that put the game out of reach for UND.
Forward Hannah Brandt led the Gophers with three points on a goal and two assists. Rachel Bona and Sarah Davis also each contributed two assists. Kelly Terry scored the game’s first goal and assisted on the last one, helping the Gophers improve to 13-0.
“There’s been a lot of talk of North Dakota possibly ending the streak, and it’s just more motivation,” Brandt said.
That appeared to be obvious during a 13-minute stretch during the second period. Brandt-to-Bona-to-Wolfe produced the first two of four second-period goals that turned a close game into a rout. Brook Garzone and Rachel Ramsey added two more goals for a 5-0 lead heading into the second intermission.
It had been touted as the Gophers’ biggest test since winning last year’s national championship without losing a game. North Dakota has traditionally given the Gophers a tough time and was the last team to beat them back in February 2012.
The Gophers’ last-minute comeback at St. Cloud State last weekend, created even more hype leading into North Dakota’s visit to the Twin Cities. Gophers captain Bethany Brausen said it was necessary they made a statement after the stressful road trip.
“I think it was really important for us to rebound like we did,” Brausen said. “The ability to play a game like that and win so decisively, that really speaks a lot to our program this year.”
Blowout victories against North Dakota are a rarity for the Gophers or any team. Brausen said the team and coaching staff relished in the moment of taking a 5-0 lead into the third period. They are also aware it means North Dakota will be eager for revenge in the series finale Sunday.
North Dakota produced more shots on goal on Saturday, outshooting the Gophers 35-30, but Amanda Leveille saved 34 of the attempts. Meghan Dufault scored North Dakota’s only goal early in the third period.
“When we get some momentum, particularly at home with our crowd behind us, it makes our team pretty hard to stop,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “I think that was the difference, those 10 minutes in the second period.”
And according to Brausen and Brandt, some of the difference can be attributed to the idea that outsiders thought the streak was in serious jeopardy this weekend. It didn’t look like it was Saturday.