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Gophers hit the gas early, score twice in opening minute on the way to a sweep of UMD

Two goals in the first 35 seconds -- the fasted pair to start a game in Gopher women's hockey history -- set the tone as Minnesota built a big lead and then held off a late charge to sweep in-state rival Minnesota Duluth.

Skaja, Wethington.jpg
Minnesota Gophers defender Madeline Wethington (left) celebrated after Catie Skaja (right) scored just 25 seconds into a 5-3 win over Minnesota Duluth on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
Luke Schmidt / Gopher Sports

MINNEAPOLIS – After coming oh-so-close to an upset of top-ranked Minnesota on Friday, the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs’ plans on how to topple the Gophers was likely thrown out in the first minute of their Saturday afternoon rematch.

The Gophers got goals from Catie Skaja and Abbey Murphy in the first 35 seconds of their game, building a sizable lead and holding off a late push by the Bulldogs for a 5-3 win and a sweep of the weekend series.

Skaja added a second period goal and both Taylor Heise and Ella Huber had a pair of assists as the Gophers improved to 9-0-1 overall and in the WCHA.

“Overall I’m really, really impressed with our team. We came out flying again,” said Gophers coach Brad Frost. “Great second period and we’ve struggled in our second periods a little bit here as of late, so it was good to get those three (goals).”

Mannon McMahon had a goal and an assist for the Bulldogs (7-5-0, 3-5-0), who scored the only two goals of the final period but could not come all the way back after falling behind 5-1.

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It was a stark difference from Friday’s drama, as the Gophers got an overtime goal from Heise to win 3-2. The Gophers came out with a fiery determination right from the first puck drop, notching the fastest two goals from the start of a game in program history.

“After last night I felt like we needed to take the pressure and put it on them instead of having it on us,” Heise said.

At the other end of the rink, they got 23 saves from goalie Skylar Vetter for the win.

In the Bulldogs’ net, things didn’t go as smoothly, as starter Emma Soderbrg was lifted following the Gophers fifth goal. Hailey MacLeod came on in relief, stopping all five Gophers shots she faced.

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“It just wasn’t her day, and I think she was probably relieved in some way to get on the bench and just take a breather,” said Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell. “I thought Hailey did a good job coming in in relief as well.”

The loss concludes a brutally tough six-game stretch for the Bulldogs in which they faced Ohio State on the road, Wisconsin at home and Minnesota on the road. UMD was 1-5-0 in those games, with two of the losses coming in overtime.

“We’ve been playing really good hockey. I’d say this game was probably the worst of the six, and maybe that is the stretch, the duration,” Crowell said. “But I think we’ve been playing really well. I thought last night could’ve gone either way and played better than them for the last, at least 30 (minutes).”

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Minnesota captain Abigail Boreen teed up a shot between Minnesota Duluth defenders during the Gophers' 5-3 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday, November 5, 2022 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
Luke Schmidt / Gopher Sports

Extra pucks

The Gophers’ next regular season games are not until Nov. 19-20 when they travel to Wisconsin for a pair with the Badgers. But they will get a kind of throwback to high school on Monday night, when they face St. Cloud State in an exhibition game in Andover, Minnesota, as a fundraiser for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

“I’m excited,” Skaja said. “It’s going to be a fun atmosphere and reminds me of my rink at home. It’s going to be awesome.”

Minnesota 5, Minnesota Duluth 3

Minnesota 3-2-0—5

Minn. Duluth 1-0-2—3

First period — 1. MN, Catie Skaja 4 (Taylor Heise, Grace Zumwinkle), 0:25. 2. MN, Abbey Murphy 9 (Emily Oden, Nelli Laitinen), 0:35. 3. MD, Maggie Flaherty 3 (Mannon McMahon), 5:51, (PP). Penalties — Ella Huber, MN (interference), 5:31; Murphy, MN (interference), 10:19.

Second period — 4. MN, Skaja 5 (Heise, Huber), 7:24, (PP). 5. MN, Josefin Bouveng 5 (Huber, Madeline Wethington), 8:16. 6. MN, Abigail Boreen (unassisted), 11:24. Penalties — Tova Henderson, MD (tripping), 6:43;.

Third period — 7. MD, McMahon 4 (Nina Jobst-Smith, Hanna Baskin), 6:26. 8. MD, Clara Van Wieren 2 (Ashton Bell, Gabbie Hughes), 19:30, (PP, EA). Penalties — Bench, MN (too many players), 0:47; Hughes, MD (hooking), 11:11; Peyton Hemp, MN (body checking), 18:36.

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Shots on goal — MN 11-10-11—32 MD 13-7-6—26. Goalies — Skylar Vetter, MN (26 shots-23 saves); Emma Soderberg, MD (17-15); Hailey MacLeod, MD (15-15). Power plays — MN 1-of-2, MD 2-of-4. Referees — Tyler Olson, Duncan Ryhorchuk. Linesmen — Aaron Neville, Glendon Seal. Att. — 2,280.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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