The University of Minnesota Duluth hosted its first hockey game at Amsoil Arena in 265 days on Friday, and the first 16 minutes went splendidly. The Bulldogs women’s hockey team was in control on the ice and on the scoreboard, leading Minnesota 2-0.
Back-to-back penalties by the sixth-ranked Bulldogs late in the first, however, shifted the momentum in favor of the third-ranked Golden Gophers, who recorded the next four goals to skate away with a 4-2 victory in WCHA play.
Game 2 of the series takes place at 3:07 p.m. Saturday back at Amsoil Arena.
“I really liked our start, I thought we came out flying. Nice to put up two goals in the first, and had a sluggish second,” UMD coach Maura Crowell said. “We played pretty well at times, need a little more consistency throughout the game. And I would like to see us play better with a two goal lead.”
With a scattering of masked humans on one side of the rink in the press boxes and cardboard cutouts on the opposite side surrounding the benches — plus some piped in cheering — senior wing Anna Klein and junior center Kylie Hanley tallied the first goals at Amsoil Arena since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the venue back in the second week of March.
For Klein — who put the puck in off her head — it was her fourth goal in three games and Hanley picked up her third. But that was it for offense from a UMD squad that put up five and seven goals last weekend in a season-opening sweep at Minnesota State-Mankato.
Junior center Gabbie Hughes — back in the lineup after being taken out of last Saturday’s game against the Mavericks, her head slammed down onto the ice during a breakaway — put six shots on the Gophers’ net, but Minnesota senior graduate transfer Lauren Bench (formerly of Bemidji State) turned away all six of Hughes’ shots and 26 total to hand UMD its first loss of the season.
Hughes said the consistency just wasn’t there for UMD on Friday against Minnesota like it was a week ago in Mankato.
“Our first period was very strong and we just need to keep that consistent effort, keep that consistency throughout the whole game,” said Hughes, who has seven goals and seven assists in 11 career games against Minnesota. “If we can keep playing like that, then we will come out on top tomorrow.”
UMD junior goaltender Emma Soderberg finished with 34 saves on the 37 shots she faced, having to stop five shots during the Gophers’ first two power plays that began late in the first period and carried over to the second. She stopped 16 total shots in the second when Minnesota was able to pull within one on a goal by junior wing Abigail Boreen.
Like Boreen, Minnesota freshman wing Abbey Murphy got a puck to just trickle past Soderberg and the goal line, knotting the game at 12:05 of the third. Freshman wing Anne Cherkowski scored the game-winning goal with 2:17 to go on an open look after a puck bounced to her off a Bulldog skate and junior wing Catie Skaja scored on an empty net.
"Great team win here tonight on the road against a very good team,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. "We really started to get the momentum there in the second period. It was a great goal by Abby Boreen to get us on the board, and it was real nice in the third period to tie it up and get the win.”
Crowell said her team needed to be hungrier Friday for that third goal to push the lead to three.
“When we were playing our game, when we had the puck and we're making things happen, Ii thought we played really well,” Crowell said. “So we need more of that and we need more of that from all of our players and consistently throughout the game, through the ups and the downs.”
Minnesota Duluth 2-0-0—0
First period — 1. UMD, Anna Klein 4 (Ashton Bell, Anneke Linser), 5:12; 2. UMD, Kylie Hanley 3 (Naomi Rogge, Lizi Norton), 14:22.
Second period — 3. MIN, Abigail Boreen 1 (Catie Skaja), 1:44.
Third period — 4. MIN, Abbey Murphy 1 (Crystalyn Hengler, Emily Oden), 12:05; 5. MIN, Anne Cherkowski 1 (Maggie Nicholson), 17:43; 6. MIN, Skaja 1, 18:10 (en).
Saves — Lauren Bench, MIN, 6-9-11—26; Emma Soderberg, UMD, 10-16-8—34.
Power play — MIN 0-for-3; UMD 0-for-2. Penalties — MIN 2-4; UMD 3-6.