MINNEAPOLIS -- The first women’s hockey series between Minnesota and St. Thomas as Division I opponents concluded on Sunday afternoon at St. Thomas Ice Arena with both programs anxious to see what the future holds.
For the upstart Tommies, the view remains long term as they build toward the day when beating a team such as the Gophers is a realistic expectation.
The Gophers’ focus is much more immediate, with the national power enjoying another standout season and eyeing a national championship.
True to form, the Gophers completed the series sweep with an 8-2 victory, one day after blanking the Tommies 8-0 at Ridder Arena. Senior forward Abigail Boreen, a Hill-Murray grad, collected the first hat trick of her college career as the Gophers improved to 16-5-1 overall and 11-4-1 in the WCHA.
St. Thomas dropped to 4-15-1, 2-13-1.
“It was really fun to play them,” said Tommies assistant coach Marty Sertich, who along with fellow assistant Bethany Brausen is leading the team while head coach Joel Johnson is coaching the U.S. Olympic team. “I wish coach Johnson (a former Gophers assistant) could have been here.
“And for Bethany, a former player and coach (with the Gophers), it was a lot of fun for her to play them.”
For Gophers head coach Brad Frost, the focus for the weekend was to make sure his team stuck to its system, focusing on doing things the right way rather than the scoreboard. He was happy with the way his team responded.
“I liked the way we possessed the puck,” Frost said. “In the second period, in particular, our net drives were really good, which opened some things up. Overall, we defended well, had the puck a lot and were able to control the play for the most part.”
Frost and Johnson have remained close friends since their days as hockey teammates and roommates at Bethel. He has no doubt that Johnson is the right person to lead the Tommies.
“He is going to do great things with this program,” Frost said. “Obviously, St. Thomas is a well-established academic institution as well, so it’s going to be a place where a lot of Twin Cities kids will be interested in.
“Where they might have gone out east or other places, they’ll probably start looking at St. Thomas as a potential landing spot.”
The Gophers took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission on a pair of goals by Boreen. St. Thomas took advantage of a crazy bounce to get on the board with a shorthanded goal early in the second period. Luci Bianchi chipped the puck into an open net after Gophers goalie Lauren Bench went behind the net to play a dump-in, only to have the puck kick back into the slot.
The Gophers responded with four goals in a span of four minutes and 40 seconds to take a commanding 6-1 lead. Peyton Hemp, Amy Potomak, Taylor Heise and Emily Zumwinkle scored for the Gophers.
Boreen completed her hat trick with her 18th goal of the season early in the third period. After Tommies freshman Lauren Stenslie cut the Gophers’ lead to 7-2, Gophers senior winger Catie Skaja ended the scoring with her eighth goal of the season.
“We were proud of the girls for their effort all weekend,” Sertich said. “Minnesota has some dangerous players, and when they get things going it’s kind of tough. But for us, it was fun to watch us compete against them and be warriors.”