They were outshot 10-3 in the first period, trailing by a goal and seemingly trying to keep up with their top-ranked opponent. Saturday afternoon began as if it might be a long one for the Gophers women’s hockey team.
Instead, the No. 2-ranked Gophers flipped the script in the second period, scoring two goals, then added two more in the third for a 4-2 victory over defending national champion Wisconsin in front of 3,283 at Ridder Arena.
“I thought our team played really, really well,’’ Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “We took away their time and space for the most part.’’
Grace Zumwinkle scored two goals, and Sarah Potomak and Alex Woken had one each as Minnesota (10-1, 6-1 WCHA) beat the Badgers (10-1, 4-1) in the border rivals’ first meeting of the season. Minnesota ended a two-game losing streak against Wisconsin, which beat the Gophers 2-0 in last season’s NCAA final and 3-1 in the WCHA tournament final. The series concludes Sunday afternoon.
Gophers goalie Sydney Scobee made 31 saves, including 11 in the third period as Wisconsin pressed to get back in the game. “Sydney’s been absolutely amazing all year,’’ Potomak said.
The Badgers took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Daryl Watts, the nation’s scoring leader, sped into the Minnesota zone and beat Scobee over her right shoulder on the short side for her 10th goal of the season.
Wisconsin’s speed and tenacity controlled the first period before Minnesota’s energy took over in the second.
Taylor Heise forced Badgers goalie Kristen Campbell to make a big save in the period’s first 30 seconds. And Potomak made the Badgers pay for a turnover in their own end by taking a pass from her sister Amy Potomak and beating Campbell to tie the score 1-1 at 7:55.
“When you get that first one and the crowd gets going, there’s more energy on the bench,’’ Frost said.
Minnesota quickly built on that momentum and cashed it in for a 2-1 lead. Heise collected the puck behind the Wisconsin net and fed Zumwinkle on the doorstep. Zumwinkle quickly pounded the puck past Campbell at 9:35 of the period.
“I tried to find some open space for her,’’ Zumwinkle said of Heise, “and she worked her magic.’’
Wisconsin applied pressure early in the third, but the Gophers responded by taking a 3-1 lead. Zumwinkle’s slapshot hit the post, and the puck bounced behind Campbell for a goal at 4:51.
Only 68 seconds later, Gophers forward Alex Woken beat Campbell for a 4-1 lead, and Ridder Arena roared in approval. Wisconsin cut the lead to 4-2 on Presley Norby’s goal with 3:45 left in the third but got no closer.
“We’re still forming our identity, as Wisconsin is, but that was a pretty good version of ourselves,’’ Frost said.