Gophers and Bulldogs Duke it Out in Minneapolis

Aggressive play, penalties and stellar goaltending were the major points of Minnesota’s sweep of Minnesota-Duluth

Coming into the weekend, there was a lot of talk about how the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs would fare when taking on rival Minnesota Gophers. The Bulldogs were winless in their previous 19 meetings with the Gophers (0-18-1), and many thought the trend would continue. Minnesota did extend the win streak, but it didn’t feel like the blowout series sweep that is expected when the Gophers play the Bulldogs.

High Caliber Play

Friday night’s game began the opposite of how it was predicted to start: Duluth opened scoring when Sydney Brodt scored a little over four minutes into the first period. The goal came off of an opening couple of minutes where the Bulldogs pressured well and generated good chances. Duluth kept the momentum until later in the period when Patti Marshall tied the game for Minnesota on the power play. It was a notable night for the Gopher freshmen, as Lindsay Agnew scored the go-ahead goal for the Gophers before the period was over.

By the second period, it became clear that the story of the game would be penalties. Both the Gophers and Bulldogs took a lot of penalties, and Jalyn Elmes tied the game for Duluth on a power play. After a lot of back and forth, physical play and more penalties, Sarah Potomak put the Gophers ahead once more, again on the power play. Before the end of the period, Duluth would tie the game again on a power play goal by Ashleigh Brykaliuk.

After two fast and physical periods, the Gophers seemed to enter their comfort zone in the third. While both teams were nearly equal on shots at the end of the second, Minnesota would outshoot Duluth by more than 10 in the third. The rivalry between the two teams became more evident in this period, with pushing and shoving in front of the goal leading to a roughing minor for a player on each team. The lone goal of the period was scored by Potomak, and surprisingly, it wasn’t on the power play.

Despite not ending the night with any points, Duluth should have felt that Friday night’s game was a win. They played a long, hard, complete game, and they showed they can keep up with the defending national champions.

All About Rooney

Saturday afternoon’s game had a much different feel to it. Right away, the Gophers came out swinging in a way that was reminiscent of their dominant games of last season. Immediately, Minnesota was generating chances and keeping the puck in the zone, despite Duluth’s efforts to try to clear it. But the first time the Bulldogs had any offensive chances, they scored. Lara Stalder, who had a hat trick last weekend against Minnesota State, found the back of the net on a breakaway. Once again, penalties would make a major difference. Just a few minutes later, Duluth’s Katherine McGovern went to the box for holding, and Cara Piazza scored the tying goal for the Gophers. Before the the halfway point of the first period, Stalder scored again for Duluth on another breakaway, but this didn’t give the Bulldogs any real momentum.

From that point on, the notable factor of the game was sophomore Bulldogs goaltender Maddie Rooney. Duluth never got another goal in the game, but Rooney held off the Gophers all the way through the first two periods aside from the goal from Piazza. By the end of the second period, the Gophers were outshooting the Bulldogs 27-8, but the Bulldogs still led 2-1.

The third period saw more penalties on both sides, which Kelly Pannek took advantage of and scored the tying goal for the Gophers on their 30th shot of the game. There was a lot of celebration in Ridder Arena after Pannek scored; it was her 100th career point. Duluth had a chance to win the game late in the third when Pannek went to the box for body checking and the Bulldogs spent the end of regulation on the power play. Pannek had an unfortunate hit on Katerina Mrázová, who spent some time down on the ice, but did return to the game. Duluth never really took advantage of this final power play, and the game went to overtime.

By the end of regulation, the Gophers outshot the Bulldogs 42-14, yet the score was still 2-2. Enough cannot be said about the quality and quantity of the saves Rooney was making throughout the game. The way the Gophers were playing, the game should have been a blowout.

Potomak would get her second game-winning goal of the weekend when she beat Rooney with a little over a minute left in overtime.

Takeaways and What’s Next?

Many were wondering how the Gophers would respond to their 2-0 loss to Bemidji State last weekend, and if it was a sign that they were struggling with missing a lot of their star players from the past few seasons. However, sweeping Minnesota-Duluth should assuage those fears. Minnesota looked to be back to its usual dominant self, getting down and dirty in the offensive zone and finding the back of the net.

While the Bulldogs are still winless in their last 21 meetings with the Gophers, this series felt different. They generated offense, kept pace with Minnesota and got a highlight-reel performance from their goaltender.

Next weekend the Gophers will go on the road for a series against Ohio State, while Duluth will take on Bemidji State at home. Since the NCAA season has been so wildly unpredictable thus far, both of these matchups should bring a lot of fun and surprise.