The Gophers women’s hockey team rarely loses its season opener.
Last year was one exception. But history did not repeat Friday night. Despite a slow start, the No. 3 Gophers beat No. 10 Mercyhurst 4-2 in a nonconference game at Ridder Arena.
Senior captain Kelly Pannek, a returning U.S. Olympian who was honored before the game, had one goals and one assist. Sarah Potomak, a redshirt junior from Aldergrove, British Columbia, who also missed last season chasing her Olympic dreams, got two assists.
Potomak and her younger sister Amy, a redshirt freshman who scored Minnesota’s second goal, trained with the Canadian national team last season but were cut before the Winter Olympics.
With the win, the Gophers, who trailed 1-0 after the opening period, improved to 20-2 all-time in season openers.
“Good start to the year,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “Our first period was not really great. … Fortunately Alex [Gulstene] made most of the saves there.”
Mercyhurst took a 1-0 lead on Emma Nuutinen’s power-play goal at 11:39 of the opening period.
The Gophers’ Patti Marshall tied the score at 8:22 of the second. Amy Potomak put the Gophers ahead 2-1 with 1:31 left in the middle period.
The Gophers scored twice more early in the third. Defenseman Emily Brown got an unassisted goal at 49 seconds — the eventual game-winner — and Pannek made it 4-1 at 4:40.
“The back-breaker for them,” Frost said, “was when Brownie scored early in the third.”
Mercyhurst’s Emily Pinto got the game’s final goal at 13:32.
Gulstene had 21 saves for the Gophers, Kennedy Blair 24 for the Lakers.
Minnesota is now 9-1 all-time against Mercyhurst.