Monday, 20 January 2014

Sarah Davis contributes three points as Minnesota Golden Gophers capture first game of 2014 Hockey City Classic

For a Minnesota Golden Gophers squad that has made its share of NCAA women’s hockey history, January 18 marked a new milestone for the proud program. Competing at TCF Bank Stadium, the Golden Gophers competed in their first home outdoor game. It was also the first NCAA Division I outdoor game ever held in the state of Minnesota.

With an attendance of 6,623 fans, it was the largest attendance for a home game since November 2, 1997, the first game in program history (an 8-0 win against Augsburg). Of note, the Golden Gophers played in one other outdoor game, a January 29, 2011 contest on the road versus the Wisconsin Badgers. Attendance for that event was 10,668 fans, the highest attendance for a road game in program history.

Playing against fellow WCHA rivals, the Minnesota-State Mankato Mavericks, the Hockey City Classic marked what fans hope can become an annual tradition. Improving their mark to 21-1-1 on the strength of three points by Sarah Davis, the Golden Gophers have not missed a beat since their upset loss to the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

While Kingston, Ontario’s Amanda Leveille only required 19 saves in order to earn her seventh shutout of the year for Minnesota, it was a different story for the opposing goaltender. MSU Mankato’s Danielle Butters faced 51 shots in a valiant performance that saw her club vanquished by a 4-0 mark. Of note, both goaltenders would don tuques in order to keep warm during the outdoor event.

At the 5:24 mark of the first, junior Meghan Lorence scored on the power play (Lauren Barnes was serving a checking penalty), with assists being credited to Sarah Davis and Rachel Bona. It would prove to be the last goal for 30:36 of play as the arctic-like conditions made every skating stride a monumental effort. Evidence of the impact of the cold was seen in the fact that only three penalties were handed out in the entire game.

As the breath from the players on both teams was highly visible, among the backdrop of the fans in attendance, it may have been the most physically demanding contest of their NCAA careers. While the distractions of participating in a historic event and the concerns over weather lingered, Minnesota head coach Brad Frost emphasized keeping things simple; applying pressure when needed, defending well, and scoring enough goals to win.

Although Lorence’s goal would prove to be the game-winning tally, the Golden Gophers would manage to add to their lead. With two minutes remaining in the second stanza, Rachel Bona scored on Butters. Haley Northcote of the Mavericks would be called for interference 43 seconds after the goal, providing Minnesota with its third power play.

Only 71 seconds later, Davis would manage to score as her shot deflected off the crossbar and past the goal line, resulting in her third point of the game. Kelly Terry and sensational sophomore Hannah Brandt would earn the assists. Of note, the goals for Bona and Davis signified their 13th goal each during the season. During the stanza, the Mavericks only managed four shots on net.

Fatigue began to set in during the final frame as the extreme cold made it even more difficult to skate. With 67 second remaining in the contest, Jordyn Burns managed her first goal of the season, with Red Wing, Minnesota native Paige Haley logging the helper.
Finishing the game without one penalty called against them, it marked the third time in Golden Gopher history that the feat was reached. The last game without a penalty for the program came on November 30, 2003 versus North Dakota.

With the loss, the MSU-Mankato Mavericks suffer their 16th loss of the season. Butters would accumulate double-digit saves in every period (17 in the first, 16 in the second, 14 in the third), while Tracy McCann and Melissa Klippenstein led the Mavericks with four shots each. Maryanne Menefee led all Gophers skaters with eight shots while Sarah Davis topped all skaters as she won 18 faceoffs.

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