Minnesota’s extremely talented freshman class was relatively quiet in the Gophers season-opening split with Ohio State weekend, getting just one goal from Josey Dunne and a pair of assists from Anne Cherkowski. And through 50 minutes of Friday night’s game against Minnesota Duluth, their young stars were equally quiet. But they came through in a big way late with freshmen Abbey Murphy and Anne Cherkowski each scoring their first career goals and defenseman Maggie Nicholson registering her first career point as part of a three-goal outburst in the third period that erased a 2-1 deficit en route to a 4-2 Minnesota win.
Minnesota Duluth came out strong on their home ice, building a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Ashton Bell and Kylie Hanley. Minnesota drew within one goal in the second period when Abigail Boreen’s long shot from the top of the right circle trickled through Minnesota Duluth goalie Emma Soderberg to cut the lead in half.
The Bulldogs were able to maintain their one-goal through half of the final period, but Minnesota’s Abbey Murphy fired a shot from the left side of the net at 12:05 of the third period that trickled through Soderberg to even up the score. Just 5:38 later, it was another freshman, this time Anne Cherkowski, that would put the Gophers ahead for good when she picked up a rebound that deflected off a defender in front of the net and scored.
Catie Skaja would complete the four-goal rally and end the scoring with an empty net goal to close out the victory. Final shots for the game were 38-28 in favor of Minnesota.
Minnesota moved to 2-1-0 on the season with the victory, while the loss was Minnesota Duluth’s first, moving them to 2-1-0 as well. The two teams will complete their series Saturday afternoon at 3pmCT.
Notes and Thoughts:
-It’s got to be incredibly disappointing for Minnesota Duluth to let this one get away. The Gophers were shorthanded tonight with both Amy Potomak and Gracie Ostertag out of the lineup, and overall, I don’t think Minnesota played that well. Minnesota finished the game with 38 shots on goal, outshooting Minnesota Duluth by 10, but those numbers felt incredibly misleading because very few of them seemed like dangerous scoring chances.
It’s early in the season, and has been a very weird year, so maybe you can forgive them for being a bit disjointed, but Minnesota really struggled to move the puck and create high-quality chances. Everything seemed to come from individual efforts and it wasn’t as effective. They ended up getting bailed out tonight by scoring two goals that went through the UMD goalie and probably should have been saved.
Minnesota threw out a line of Grace Zumwinkle-Taylor Heise-Abbey Murphy—each arguably the #1 recruit in the nation in three of the last four classes—and, even though Murphy got a goal, generated just five shots on the night and were a combined -1 =/-. That should be a dominant line and they looked just okay at best because they were never better than the sum of their individual parts.
The talent is there, but there’s still a long way to go for them to reach their potential.
-Speaking of Abbey Murphy, I was interested to see her play this weekend after going scoreless in both games last weekend, for what I can only assume was the first time in her life.
It was a bit hit-or-miss. Obviously the talent is evident. She’s an incredible skater, tenacious and skilled. She had a jaw-dropping rush up the ice that almost set up Audrey Wethington for a goal in the first period. But there are a lot of things she was maybe able to get away with at the youth level and in practice that isn’t going to work at this level. She had a couple bad turnovers trying to skate circles around the offensive zone.
It’s going to take some time. I think it speaks to the rising level of play throughout women’s college hockey that it’s harder for a player, talented as they may be, to step in right away at this level and have immediate, massive success. Zumwinkle and Heise both went through some growing pains early in their career as well as they adjusted to not being able to do everything themselves.
-Gabbie Hughes was able to play for Minnesota Duluth tonight despite taking a nasty hit last Saturday against Minnesota State. Hughes was held off the scoresheet—technically she had the fourth assist on Anna Klein’s first period goal, winning a face-off cleanly to start the scoring play—but was by far the best player on the ice, consistently generating quality chances for the Bulldogs.
But ultimately what seems to be separating the Bulldogs from the upper tier of the WCHA is that they just don’t have the depth on their second and third lines to hang with the likes of Minnesota or Wisconsin. That seemed to be the case here tonight with the second and third lines both giving up late goals.
6:12 Anna Klein from Ashton Bell and Anneke Linser 1-0 Minnesota Duluth
The Bulldogs won a face-off in the offensive zone back to Flaherty. Flaherty gave the puck to Linser at the left half-boards. Linser passed the puck back to the right point and Bell took a wrist shot that deflected off Klein in front of the goal and into the net.
14:22 Kylie Hanley from Naomi Rogge and Lizi Norton 2-0 Minnesota Duluth
Hanley got the puck in the right corner off the cycle from Rogge. She circled towards the net and fired a high wrist shot that beat Bench over the shoulder.
1:44 Abigail Boreen from Catie Skaja 2-1 Minnesota Duluth
Boreen skated the puck down the right wing on a rush into the Minnesota Duluth and took a wrist shot from the top of the circle that leaked through Soderberg and into the net.
12:05 Abbey Murphy from Crystalyn Hengler and Emily Oden 2-2 Tie
Murphy took a shot from the left face-off dot that trickled through Soderberg to the short side.
17:43 Anne Cherkowski from Maggie Nicholson 3-2 Minnesota
Nicholson took a low shot from the right point that hit a defender in front of the net. The ricochet bounced right onto Cherkowski’s stick and she was to finish off the goal before Soderberg could react to the redirection.
18:10 Catie Skata unassisted (empty net) 4-2 Minnesota
Skaja intercepted a failed drop pass in the UMD zone and fired the puck the length of the ice for the insurance goal.