MINNEAPOLIS -- The No. 3 University of Minnesota women's hockey team secured a 4-2 win over No. 10 Mercyhurst in the team's season-opener at Ridder Arena on Friday night. Four different Gophers scored goals, and Kelly Pannek and Sarah Potomak led the way with two points each.
Minnesota (1-0-0) received goals from Patti Marshall, Amy Potomak, and Emily Brown in addition to Pannek, who also recorded her 100th career assist in the win. Amy Potomak's goal marked the first of her collegiate career, and Brown netted the game-winner on a solo effort.
"This was a good start to the year," head coach Brad Frost said. "We liked what we saw tonight. A lot of really good things -- we're certainly not perfect quite yet, but overall a really good start."
Mercyhurst (0-1-0) took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period on a power-play goal by Emma Nuutinen, but the Gophers took the lead in the second period and did not look back, scoring two goals in both the second period and the third period.
"Our first period was not great by any stretch of the imagination," Frost said. "Our lines weren't really clicking and we weren't putting a lot pressure on them or creating a whole lot offensively and we were giving things up. Fortunately Alex made most of the saves and got us out of there 1-0. We were able to score fairly early there in the second to tie it up and extend the lead. The back-breaker, I think, for them was when Brownie scored that one early in the third."
Marshall put Minnesota on the board and tied the game at 1-1 at the 8:22 mark of the second period. Taylor Wente won a faceoff in the Minnesota zone and found Grace Zumwinkle moving through neutral ice. Zumwinkle then sent the puck cross ice to Nicole Schammel, who was streaking up the slot. Schammel collected the puck in the opposite corner and fed Marshall at the top of the left face-off circle where she fired a slap shot that beat Mercyhurst netminder Kennedy Blair off the cross bar.
Minnesota took the lead before the end of the middle frame when Amy Potomak scored her first goal as a Gopher. Sarah Potomak moved the puck behind the net and fed Pannek in the corner where she found Amy Potomak in the slot for a one-timer to give the Gophers the lead at 2-1 with 1:31 remaining in the second period.
"I thought our team did a good job off the bat coming into the second; we were calm and we were confident, and we were making good plays," Amy Potomak said. "I don't think there was ever a second of doubt there that we weren't going to bear down in that second period and I thought we worked hard and it came to us."
The Gophers added two more tallies in the third period, extending their lead to two at 3-1 just 49 seconds into the period when Brown scored the eventual game-winner on an unassisted effort. Pannek then scored her first goal of the season when she buried her own rebound just outside the crease off a feed from Sarah Potomak at the 4:40 mark of the third period. Mercyhurst got one back, making it 4-2 with 6:28 remaining on a goal by Emily Pinto, but Minnesota closed out the 4-2 win.
Alex Gulstene made 21 saves for the Gophers while Blair made 24 for the Lakers as Minnesota had a 28-23 advantage in shots on goal.
The Gophers were 0-for-2 on the power play while holding the Lakers to 1-for-3 with the skater advantage.
Prior to the game, Minnesota celebrated its 2018 Olympians with a ceremonial puck drop featuring Team USA gold medalists Dani Cameranesi, Lee Stecklein, and Pannek along with Team Finland bronze medalist Mira Jalosuo and Mercyhurst's Nuutinen. The Gophers also raised the program's 2018 WCHA Final Faceoff championship banner on Friday night.
Minnesota and Mercyhurst face off in game two of this weekend's non-conference series at 4:07 p.m. CT Saturday at Ridder Arena.