MINNEAPOLIS -- Grace Zumwinkle broke a 1-1 tie in the third period when she scored the game-winning goal on the power play as the No. 2 University of Minnesota women's hockey team secured a 2-1 win and WCHA series sweep over visiting Bemidji State on Saturday evening at Ridder Arena.
Minnesota (9-2-1, 7-2-1-0 WCHA) also received a goal from Taylor Williamson, and Alex Gulstene made 25 saves in the win for the Maroon & Gold. The Gophers won 6-3 in game one of the series, receiving goals from six different players in the two games. For the series, Zumwinkle and Alex Woken led the way with two goals each.
Bemidji State (0-9-1, 0-5-1-0 WCHA) got its lone goal from Jacqueline Kaasa along with 25 saves from Kerigan Dowhy on Saturday. Minnesota had a 27-26 advantage in shots on goal for the game despite being outshot 8-6 in the middle frame and 11-8 in the third period.
"It was a classic Bemidji/Gopher women's hockey game. They made it very hard to play against them: they're fast, they're strong, they block shots, they have good goaltending, they take away time and space, and they did that almost to perfection tonight, and fortunately we were able to capitalize on that in the third on the power play," head coach Brad Frost said. "It was a real nice bounce back effort by our goaltender Alex Gulstene. Our penalty kill has been really good over the past couple of weeks and was something that we were struggling with earlier. It starts with good goaltending, blocking shots, and being good enough to clear the PK.
"It was a grind and very rarely are games like this pretty to watch, I think our team would love to be going up and down the ice and not having people in their face all the time. We get everyone's best games. The majority of their team is from Minnesota, and they want nothing more than to beat the Gophers, so we always have to be as ready as possible."
The Maroon & Gold got on the board first, improving to 6-0-0 when scoring the first goal of the game. Catie Skaja won a faceoff in the BSU end to Dowhy's left, flicking the puck back to Williamson who moved into the slot and let the puck fly through traffic, beating Dowhy and giving the Gophers a 1-0 lead with 8:08 remaining in the first period.
The second period saw BSU even the score at 1-1 when Kaasa scored her first goal of the season on an unassisted effort after battling for possession at the Beaver blue line. Kaasa gained control of the puck through neutral ice and got through on a breakaway, beating Gulstene and putting the visitors on the board.
"In the first game, you feel the other team out, like how are they going to be this year, who are we playing, that sort of thing," Gulstene said. "The second game, you know who you're playing against, you know you can play against them, you know hopefully how to beat them. It always counts for a grind in the second game. I thought we played pretty well overall. There's always ups and down in a hockey game, and at the end of today, we got the win. I was proud of how we played out there."
The Gophers regained the lead in the third period when Zumwinkle ripped a slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle to break the 1-1 tie and put Minnesota on top 2-1 with 14:52 remaining. Taylor Wente gained control of the puck off the faceoff and found Emily Brown, who set up the play as the Gophers converted on their first power play of the game.
"I classify wins in two categories: pure, clean wins or hard-fought ones," Zumwinkle said. "Tonight obviously falls into that one. I think that proves that we can come back from adversity and that we are not a team that's just pure goal scoring, but that we also have the hard work and grit that goes along with it."
The Gophers held Bemidji State scoreless on the power play, going a perfect four-for-four on the penalty kill while going one-for-two on the power play behind Zumwinkle's goal.
Minnesota is off from competition next weekend during the Four Nations Cup, and the Gophers return to action with a second home-and-home series with St. Cloud State Nov. 17-18. The Gophers and Huskies face off in St. Cloud, Minn., at 2:07 p.m. CT on Saturday, Nov. 17 before concluding the series at Ridder Arena at 2:07 p.m. CT on Sunday, Nov. 18.