Sophomore Sarah Potomak, taking part in her second NCAA championship banner raising ceremony prior to Friday’s game against Lindenwood, was full of thoughts. This time around she had memories from the experience.
“It was pretty special to reflect on last year and what we did. It was almost like we had closure and ready to set the tone for this year,” she said.
The Gophers followed up by opening 2016-17 at Ridder Arena with a shutout victory. #2 Minnesota (1-0-0, 0-0-0-0 WCHA) broke through Friday with three goals in the second period to defeat Lindenwood (0-1-0, 0-0-0 CHA) by a 3-0 score.
With 4 national championships in the past 5 years and now 7 overall, Minnesota has its celebration down pat. Ten minutes before the opening home game the Gophers come out on the ice to a quick highlight package of last season. Past seniors (in this case Hannah Brandt) then raise the banner to join its six cousins.
Then it’s time to return to the locker room and come back minutes later ready for business.
The Gophers made new memories yet were not as regimented on the ice, however. Minnesota had five players making their Gopher debut. New lines were mixed and matched throughout the game as it tries to find team chemistry. Both teams went 0-2 on the power play.
“A good start. Obviously there are things we need to work on, but it is the first game for a reason,” said senior captain Lee Stecklein. “I’m really impressed with how hard our team worked and the things we were able to fix as the game went on so I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Sophomore goaltender Jolene DeBruyn made 27 saves for Lindenwood, getting help from the defense and keeping her team in the game as Minnesota outshot the Lions by a 30-10 deficit.
“I thought she played really well. Not too many first shots were getting by her,” Gopher head coach Brad Frost said about DeBruyn. “Their defense did a nice job blocking shots, but just as a team they do a good job keeping to the outside and making things difficult.”
After a scoreless first period Potomak, who finished last season by being named the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player, began the new year just as strong. She broke through scoring Minnesota’s first of the season 1:28 into the middle period.
“We talked before the period just getting into the dirty areas. That was how we were going to score on her,” said Potomak. “I saw Dani going behind the net and knew where she was going to put (the puck). So I crashed the net and banged it home.”
Cara Piazza gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead eleven minutes later. Her first goal of the season came off of a Lee Stecklein rebound. Piazza, left all alone at the top of the slot, didn’t miss. Megan Wolfe then scored with 16.8 seconds remaining in the second period to make it 3-0 heading into the second intermission.
Redshirt junior goalie Sidney Peters made 10 saves for the Gophers and earned the shutout.
Minnesota and Lindenwood play again Saturday afternoon at 2:07 pm CT.
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