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Gopher Hockey Notebook: Mid-week takeaways from a busy weekend in Dinkytown

Minnesota Athletics

Opening weekend went by fast. Faster than expected even with a doubleheader Saturday between Ridder Arena and Mariucci. Both games went by so fast that it was only by the time I had left Mariucci Arena I realized I went 12 hours without eating and how much of a mistake that was. (Spoiler: It was a big one.)

Fitting then, that two banner ceremonies over the weekend went by faster than the late night line at Jimmy John's. Both the Gopher women's hockey team honoring its 2015 national title and the Gopher men's team honoring its 2015 Big Ten regular season and conference tournament wins got the ceremony over quickly. Neither wasn't slow and drawn out. Nor did the banner ceremony overshadow the games on the ice. Both teams came out (the women on the ice, the men on the bench), had a quick video, raised/unveiled the banners and ceremony over.

That was by design, at least for the women's team.

"Some of us watched the Chicago Blackhawks raise their banner and it was a little more dramatic and longer. So we thought we'd keep up it fairly simple. That's about as dramatic as we can get right there," head coach Brad Frost said. "It was nice to have our four seniors from last year come back and for the fans to see that and turn the page."

Three games throughout the weekend saw three shutouts, two completely different results and at least one NCAA record. Here are some thoughts lingering on both from a long weekend.

If you haven't read the recaps up on the site, check those out first. I should have more news and notes later today.

Gopher men get shut out by Vermont

-In his first game as Minnesota captain, Justin Kloos tried to focus the blame which goes in a 3-0 loss on himself and the upperclassmen. Can't blame him. That's what you want out of your captain after an opening night performance where no one shined or particularly struggled.

Vermont's neutral zone trap was effective in limiting Minnesota's ability to set up - especially after taking a lead - and with the possession sustained from winning faceoffs (66% over the first two periods), the Gophers had chances. The Gophers learned a lesson the hard way against a counter-attacking team that has used it well against other teams. Head coach Don Lucia mentioned postgame watching Vermont do the same thing to BC in the Hockey East playoffs.

It doesn't get easier this week with another veteran team in Minnesota Duluth, one which had success in five games this past season.

This weekend will be interesting to see if several offsides and long, unwise stretch passes against the Catamounts can be chalked up to opening game jitters and miscommunication that come from new lines or a symptom of something else.

-That said, the Gophers power play had two good chances in the opening five minutes that could have changed the game. Minnesota ended up going 0-4 on the power play as Vermont got better at shutting down lanes and frustrating the Gophers.

It's hard to say after one game whether it was more to do with Minnesota or its opponent.

"You have to credit (Vermont) too. They killed at 88% last year or so. They blocked a lot of shots on their kill and did a good job backing in. There were no seams," Lucia said. "They did a great job with their stick positioning and if you're going to shoot, it's hard to get it through."

This weekend's opponent had to kill two five minute majors and will be without one of its top defensemen Friday in Carson Soucy. Soucy was suspended a game by the NCHC for a hit to the head on Bemidji State's Leo Fitzgerald.

-Initial power play units: Tyler Sheehy-Vinni Lettieri-Tommy Novak; Jake Biscoff-Taylor Cammarata and Hudson Fasching-Connor Reilly-Leon Bristedt; Michael Brodzinski-Justin Kloos.

-Lucia also mentioned after the game that he'd likely reshuffle lines until something works. There were some hints during the third period, but I wouldn't be shocked at any pairing broken up besides maybe Kloos and Fasching.

-UVM goalie Mike Santaguida did not have to be spectacular. He did end up helping his cause by not giving up any rebounds.

-I didn't think freshman goalie Eric Schierhorn struggled particularly in his debut, but wonder if he would stop the two goals given up later in the season. In a game where Minnesota scores they are just goals. In a shutout loss having one go off the glove and in gets magnified. He is confident playing with the puck.

Defensively this is a much more defensive blue line without Mike Reilly or Ben Marshall, both of whom weren't afraid to become a fourth forward.

The Gophers did a good job in the early part of the game limiting Vermont chances in the slot. (Minnesota out-attempted the Catamounts 40-30 in the first 40 minutes with most UVM coming from the outside.) The only two plays Schierhorn's hand was particularly forced were on Puskarich's first goal and a 2x1 he stopped.

-Bischoff on Schierhorn: "He had a great first period. He did awesome, made some saves that easily could have gone in and overall Schierhorn had a good game. First college ga0me and he went out there and did all that we asked him to. He gave up two goals and that's what we try to do every night, keep it below two goals.

"Hopefully we can score more goals next time and that's all we can ask for."

-Take away his two goals and Mario Puskarich remains the best player on the ice Saturday. He made an impact away from the puck and had a game-high seven shots on net with it. Vermont missed him when he was out last season. It's easy to see why.

-The freshman that stood out to me the most was Tommy Novak. He was one of the few Gophers to get opportunities low and didn't make any glaring mistakes with his defensive center responsibilities Saturday. (Or, you know, remembering four days later.) Tyler Sheehy gets the award for most times I thought he was his predecessor (Travis Boyd) based on number and style.

Gopher women sweep St. Cloud State:

-Four days later and Minnesota's NCAA record eight goals in a period during Saturday's second period against St. Cloud State has yet to lose any of its luster, as do the barrage of boggling stats that come from putting up a snowman. The top-ranked Gophers were dominant throughout the weekend, controlling puck possession and spending multiple shifts in SCSU's zone. After 120 minutes Minnesota was able to limit the Huskies to 11 total shots on goal. Three times St. Cloud State only had a single shot in a period. One of those, Friday's second period, took until the final two minutes for the Huskies to get one.

At the same time, eight goals in a period was one of those times where everything went right on top of controlling play. There wasn't a major difference of shots or quality shots compared to the other five periods (even the opening one saw the Gophers out-attempt SCSU 14-4 despite only out-shooting 5-3)

-Surprisingly Hannah Brandt had not already scored four goals in a game.

-Defense has been very easy and very efficient for Minnesota. While the Gophers have yet to be tested much by either opponent, four games without giving up a single goal is impressive.

I asked sophomore defenseman Sydney Baldwin, who had four assists Saturday, about whether it is difficult to get in a defensive mindset with so few opportunities to play defense.

"I think it is sometimes hard to not get in and play (offense) as much, but it's a good time to work on other things like defensive plays and a lot of the stuff that we focus on in practice. It's a really good opportunity to try to work on that stuff in a game-like situation."

-The Gophers might not get that opportunity this weekend either. Ohio State, this weekend's opponent, was shut out 7-0 and 8-0 by #2 Wisconsin in Madison. The Buckeyes only fielded three full forward lines and were without the two Dunne sisters (Jincy and Jessica) on defense. (Gopher freshman defenseman Jack Sadek's sister Dani also plays for the Buckeyes.)

-This comes from not putting these thoughts up right away: Freshman forward Sarah Potomak, this week's WCHA Rookie of the Week, was named to Team Canada's Four Nations Cup roster for November 4-7 yesterday. She won't miss any games because Minnesota is off that weekend.

None of the American Gophers will participate as the US roster is shying away from collegians this time around. Brandt, Lee Stecklein and Dani Cameranesi played on the US team last year along with alums Gigi Marvin and Megan Bozek.

-Cameranesi on gelling with Potomak, who has been playing on the same line with her and Brandt: "Coach keeps yelling at me and Hannah to talk with her because obviously Hannah and I have played for a while and have chemistry made. We just need to talk with her more and I think things have been going well. We haven't been able to find the back of the net as much as we'd like to, but I think soon enough the floodgates are going to trigger open and good things are going to come for us."

The two had some signs of good chemistry on Cameranesi's second goal Friday although it was on the power play. With the advantage, Potomak found Cameranesi skating towards the slot. The freshman waited until she had an open chance.

-Several people have asked - Maryanne Menefee remains out indefinitely, according to Frost. She has yet to play this season.

Whenever she gets back it's going to be tough to find a place for her in the top-six with how well both lines are playing. Potomak and sophomore Cara Piazza have made the most of their opportunities.

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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --