Leading Lindenwood 3-2 on the scoreboard after two periods yet dominating possession, Minnesota’s coaching staff challenged its players to respond.
Respond they did. Freshman Alex Woken and senior Dani Cameranesi each scored in the opening 1:46 of the third period. Cameranesi went on to add a third to defeat Lindenwood 6-2 and sweep the Lions in the season-opening series for both teams.
“They knew we were doing all the right things, but they told us that we just had to find a way to win,” said Cameranesi about entering the third period. “We were playing really well, but there are just those games where you have to battle through and figure out to get that ‘W’ on the board.
“I think we succeeded at that.”
Cameranesi finished with three points while Sarah Potomak and Kelly Pannek each had three assists for Minnesota (2-0-0, 0-0-0-0 WCHA). Four players across both teams scored their first career goal.
“Overall a real good night,” Gopher head coach Brad Frost said. “It was very fun to see Alex Woken and Lindsay Agnew get their first goals as Gophers. We know that they’ll have many more, but it’s a special moment anytime you can put the puck in the net.”
Lindenwood (0-2-0, 0-0-0 CHA), changing goalies Saturday with Morgan Skinner getting the start, were able to battle back and make the most out of its few chances throughout the first two periods. Sophomore Corbin Welsh tied the game at one following Caitlin Reilly’s first goal of the season. It was Welsh’s first career goal in her 39th career appearance.
Minnesota took a two goal lead with a pair of second period goals. Freshman Lindsay Agnew set up on the back door of the net behind Skinner, who made 26 saves Saturday, and tapped home a Cameranesi pass for her first career goal 1:49 into the second period.
“I thought that line (with Agnew, Cameranesi and Kelly Pannek) was tremendous tonight and provided a ton of offense, scoring a few goals,” said Frost. “I thought Lindsay handled it well.”
Megan Wolfe made it 3-1 when she scored in the closing seconds of a Minnesota power play. The Gophers had a two person advantage for almost two minutes prior to Wolfe’s second goal of the season.
Less than two minutes later Lindenwood freshman Taylor Girard brought the score within one with a wrist shot that got past Minnesota goaltender Sidney Peter and into the corner of the net.
Cameranesi scored her first goal 56 seconds into the period. Her second came with 5:29 remaining when the senior skated in a circle around two Lions players before unleashing a slap shot. Between the two goals Woken, who had come close several times throughout the weekend, put the game out of reach.
“It’s pretty exciting just to get one under your belt, get all the nerves out and everything so it was nice. It was fun,” she said. “My teammates were super excited too so it was really fun.”
The Gophers outshot Lindenwood 32-10. Sidney Peters made 7 saves on 9 shots before freshman Serena D’Angelo made her debut for the final 10:22. D’Angelo came in a move to get her playing time, Frost said.
Minnesota next begins WCHA conference play by traveling to Bemidji State for a pair of games against the Beavers.
“I think it was a really good learning experience. There are still a lot of things we need to work on. Bemidji plays a very similar game with packing it in tight,” Cameranesi said, summing up the weekend. “We’re going to have to play similar next weekend so it’s a good stepping stone in that way.”
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