Minnesota's warm-up for the 2015-16 season featured a lot of friends on the other side of the ice and a familiar feeling: a victory at Ridder Arena.
Two goal nights by Hannah Brandt and Kelly Pannek helped overcome a slow start by the defending national champions. Minnesota won the exhibition with a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Whitecaps that saw the visitors make it interesting late.
Kate Schipper added a goal on a breakaway and two assists for the Gophers while Allie Thunstrom (Maplewood, MN/Boston College alum) scored twice for the Whitecaps.
The Whitecaps are a post-collegiate team made up of the best players in the area. Friday's lineup included 11 former Gophers - ranging from six months out of school to a decade - on the visitor's bench. Despite only having four practices, there were five Olympians on the team, which will play an independent schedule. (A sixth Olympian, Lee Stecklein, skated for the Gophers.)
Finnish goalie Noora Raty, who played at Minnesota from 2009-2013 and won a pair of national championships in her time with the Gophers, was in net for the homecoming against her alma mater. She finished the game with 24 saves before getting ready to depart after a summer in Minneapolis to play in the Finnish men's league.
Thunstrom got the Whitecaps on the board 10:32 into the game, stealing a pass in the Gopher zone and lifts a backhand over Amanda Leveille, who made 10 saves.
Pannek, Minnesota's leading freshman scorer in 2014-15, tied the game less than 5 minutes when she tipped in a Milica McMillen shot. Brandt gave the Gophers the lead in the final minute of the first before extending it on a shot that beat Raty 5:24 into the second period.
Gopher freshman Sarah Potomak assisted on both goals. She was playing on the top line in place of Maryanne Meneffee, out due to coaches' decision. After the game, Coach Brad Frost stated that she would be out for a while.
After a penalty-free opening half of the game, 4 were called in the final 30 minutes Pannek took advantage, scoring her second goal of the game on the power play in the second period for a 4-1 Gophers lead. The Gophers ended up controlling play as the second and third period continued. The team's chemistry was developing as several players were in and out of the lineup to rest, but there were times when it was apparent summer conditioning paid off.
Thunstrom and Jocelyn Lamoureux (Grand Forks, ND/University of North Dakota) cut Minnesota's lead to one goal before Schipper put the game out of reach. Sprung forward by a Pannek pass, Schipper skated down the ice and beat Raty with a shot over her shoulder.
Brooke White-Lancette beat the buzzer with 4.7 seconds remaining for the final score
Leveille and redshirt sophomore Sidney Peters split the game in net for the Gophers. Leveille made 10 saves on 11 shots while Peters stopped 3 of the 6 shots she faced against a tough opponent to start the year.
Minnesota opens its regular season October 1-2 against Penn State.
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 -- Follow @gopherstate