Feb. 11, 2017
MINNEAPOLIS – Taylor Williamson and Caitlin Reilly each scored twice and Cara Piazza led Minnesota with three points as the No. 5 Golden Gopher women's hockey team sealed a series sweep with a 6-2 win over North Dakota in front of 2,733 fans at Ridder Arena Saturday afternoon.
Minnesota (23-5-3, 19-4-3-2 WCHA) held a 5-0 lead after two periods before North Dakota scored two power-play goals in the third period, but the Gophers cruised to their 23rd win of the season and sixth-consecutive victory.
"Well, tonight was just an awesome effort and a really fun atmosphere," head coach Brad Frost said. "It's becoming good habits now in regards to competing and jumping out to early leads. That was obviously a huge thing for us tonight to get those two goals in the first and score a couple really quickly in the second.
"A lot of really good efforts out there by the whole group regards to blocking shots, making saves, and putting the puck in the net. Really looking forward to next weekend here, and we're happy to put these six points in the bank."
Six different Gophers recorded multiple points in the win as Kate Schipper, Sydney Baldwin, and Patti Marshall each registered two assists in addition to multi-goal games from Williamson and Reilly. Piazza had a game-high three points with one goal and two assists. In addition, Sarah Potomak became the 34th Gopher all-time to reach 100 career points with her 17th goal of the season.
"It was definitely a super fun game," Williamson said. "Looking back at everything from the start of the season until now, we're all working super hard, and it's nice to see it come together at this perfect time right before playoffs."
"I think this weekend really showed what kind of team we are when we are out there fore-checking, back-checking, and having lots of fun," Reilly echoed. "That's when we're the best team and are hard to beat."
North Dakota (13-13-6, 10-11-5-3 WCHA) received power-play goals from Halli Krzyzaniak and Anna Kilponen and 15 saves each from goaltenders Kristen Campbell and Lexie Shaw. Campbell started the game and faced 19 shots before Shaw came into the game in relief after the Gophers took a 4-0 lead less than four minutes into the second period.
Williamson and Reilly gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead after the first period before Williamson was two-thirds of the way to her first career hat trick with her second tally of the night just 2:02 into the middle frame. Potomak scored just 1:33 later, and Piazza netted a power-play goal before the period ended.
UND's goals came at the 2:17 and 16:37 marks of the third period before the Gophers capped off the scoring with Reilly's second tally, set up by Williamson on an opportunity she could have shot herself, with 2:36 remaining in the game to ice the 6-2 win.
"I think the biggest thing tonight was that we went into the game with a lot of confidence," Williamson said. "We were excited to play. It's a rivalry game, so it's easy to get pumped up for games like these. I think another big thing is we were always looking for each other, just getting as many shots on net as we could."
Ten different Gophers recorded at least one point in the game, and 12 players picked up at least one point in the series. Sidney Peters recorded both wins in net for Minnesota, finishing Saturday's game with 24 games as Minnesota outshot UND, 36-26.
"We really struggled with people scoring in the first half, other than our first line, and we had talked to our players about it. We came back from Christmas break and said, 'We aren't going to mention secondary scoring anymore. You guys know you have to score, but let's focus more on the process of scoring than the outcome of scoring.' They've just worked hard in practice. They're starting to see the fruits of their labor."
"It's awesome to see it finally clicking," Williamson said. "We battled a ton adversity throughout this year with injuries, figuring out who works best together as lines. Seeing it now coming together at the last minute, we are excited to see how it works in the upcoming weeks."
Minnesota hosts Wisconsin in its regular-season finale series next weekend at Ridder Arena. The Gophers and Badgers face off at 3:07 p.m. CT both Saturday and Sunday, and Minnesota will honor its six seniors prior to Sunday's game. Game two of the series will also air live on the Big Ten Network.
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