Minnesota’s women’s hockey team had a wake-up call coming this weekend and knew it. Turns out the Gophers were already up and ready to go.
Abbey Murphy broke a 1-1 tie with 7 minutes, 56 seconds left in the third period, then hustled up ice for an empty-net goal with 1:21 remaining, as third-ranked Minnesota beat No. 6 Minnesota Duluth 3-1 in a key WCHA matchup Friday afternoon at the Bulldogs’ Amsoil Arena.
It was the Gophers’ first game against a top-10 team since a 4-3 loss to second-raked Yale on Nov. 26, which was also the last time Minnesota lost a game. The Gophers won their next 10 games easily, mostly playing second-division WCHA rivals, before starting a tough, three-week stretch against top-10 conference rivals on Friday.
Catie Skaja also scored for the Gophers, and Grace Zumwinkle finished with two assists as the Gophers improved to 21-3-2 overall, 18-1-2-2 in the WCHA. Sophomore goaltender Skylar Vetter made several difficult saves to keep the game tied in the third and finished with 31 stops for Minnesota.
Taylor Stewart scored a goal, and Emma Soderberg made 35 saves for UMD (19-7-1, 13-7-1).
Skaja put the Gophers up 1-0 with a goal midway through the second period, and it stayed that way into the third. It only took the Bulldogs 37 seconds to tie it, however. Skating across the Gophers’ blue line, Stewart, a senior blue liner, took a pass from Taylor Anderson and fired a wrist shot from between the circles that surprised Vetter and found the top of the net at 19:23.
It stayed that way until after a long cycle by the Gophers, Murphy finished a two-on-none, scoring from left corner on a cross-crease pass from Zumwinkle..
After stop in play with under two minutes remaining, Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell pulled Soderberg for an extra attacker, but the Gophers quickly cleared the puck and Murphy chased it down in the right corner before making a diving, blind shot at the net. Ella Huber was there to clean up, but the puck bounced off a Bulldogs defender and into the net at 18:39 for a 3-1 lead.
The victory assured the Gophers of keeping their two-point hold on first place in the WCHA.