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Gophers finish 2017 with tie & win against Minnesota Duluth – Despite a pair of two-goal leads in the third period, the Gopher Women's Hockey team finished Friday's game in a 3-3 tie with Minnesota Duluth, and the Bulldogs took the extra point in the conference standings with a 5-round shootout win, but the Gophers game back with a 5-0 rout on Saturday to finish the 2017 portion of the schedule.  Taylor Wente opened the scoring on Friday to put Minnesota up 1-0 after 20 minutes.  The lead held through the second period, and was doubled by Grace Zumwinkle early in the third stanza.  UMD's Katerina Mrázová cut the lead back to one just two minutes later, but Caitlin Reilly put the Gophers back up by two with a power play marker just 78 seconds after that.  Unfortunately, Ashton Bell scored twice for the Bulldogs in the final 8:04 of regulation, knotting the score.  A scoreless overtime led to a shootout.  Minnesota's Emily Brown scored in the second round, but was matched by Mrázová; extra shooters were needed, and Ryleigh Houston found the back of the net for the Bulldogs in round 5 to end it, 2-1.  Wente again got the scoring going on Saturday, lighting the lamp with 5:15 left in the first period, but that was quickly followed by goals from Nicole Schammel & Sophie Skarzynski before the intermission.  Schammel pushed the lead to 4-0 with a pwoer play goal 3:07 into the second frame, and Zumwinkle scored with under 9 seconds remaining in the period to put the Gophers up 5-0.  A scoreless third period gave Sidney Peters a 16-save shutout.  For the series, the line of Schammel, Wente, and Zumwinkle finished with 14 points, as Schammel and Zumwinkle each had two goals and 3 assists, and Wente had a pair of assists to go with her two goals.  

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Zumwinkle named WCHA Rookie of the Week  Following her 5-point (2G, 3A) performance against Minnesota Duluth, Gopher freshman forward Grace Zumwinkle was named WCHA Rookie of the Week, powered by GoodWood Hockey, as announced by the league on Tuesday. Her +3 plus/minus rating over the weekend was second among WCHA rookies, trailing only teammate Olivia Knowles (+4).  The award was Zumwinkle's second weekly honor from the league, and the sixth weekly award for a Gopher player this season.  Congratulations, Grace.

Overall Analysis  While the Gophers currently sit in 2nd place in the WCHA standings with a 10-4-2-0 conference record and 32 points, they are only a point ahead of the Ohio State Buckeyes, who have two games in-hand.  Both the Gophers and Buckeyes trail Wisconsin, who has yet to lose a conference game and sit in the top spot with 36 points (also with 4 games in-hand over MN and two in-hand over OSU).  Minnesota did go 5-1-0 in their six non-conference games so far, resulting in a 15-5-2 record overall. 

Gopher scoring is much more balanced than at this time last season, as 11 different players have double-digit points (compared to only six a year ago).  Overall, the team is scoring 3.41 goals per game, putting them second among WCHA teams (just behind Wisconsin's 3.45) and 8th nationally.  Grace Zumwinkle and Nicole Schammel are the only double-digit goal scorers, netting 11 apiece.  Zumwinkle leads the team and is in a tie for the WCHA lead in total scoring, having dished out 14 assists to tally 25 points.  Sophie Skarzynski is second on the team in scoring with 21 points on 6 goals and 15 assists.  Schammel and Caitlin Reilly each have 20 points; Schammel has 9 assists to go with her goal total, while Reilly has posted 8 goals and 12 assists.  Sydney Baldwin is tied with Skarsynski for the team-leading assist total (15) while also scoring 4 goals of her own for 19 points; her point total leads all WCHA defensemen. 

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The Gophers' defense is still in the top-ten nationally, but just barely, sitting in 10th in goals allowed per game at 2.09 (46 goals in 22 contests); that said, they're still second among WCHA squads.  Senior Sidney Peters is 9-4-1 in her 14 starts, earning 2 shutouts; her save percentage this season is better than this time last year, at .916, but her goals-against average is up to 1.99.  Freshman Alex Gulstene has started the other 8 games, going 6-1-1 with a .904 save percentage and 2.18 GAA. 

Special teams play continues to be a strength for Minnesota.  Their power-play conversion rate is the highest among WCHA teams, sitting third nationally at 26.1% (18 of 69).  Individually, Zumwinkle's 5 power play tallies are tied for the league lead, and her 11 power play points also tops the WCHA, with Schammel sitting second with 7 PP points (4G, 3A).  The team's penalty kill efficiency has fallen slightly to 88.5% (54 of 61), but that's still 8th nationally and 2nd in the WCHA, and Cara Piazza and Katie Robinson have short-handed goals. 

WCHA honors  Minnesota continues to receive a lot of recognition from the WCHA, with a conference Player of the Week in 6 different weeks.  As mentioned previously, Grace Zumwinkle has been named WCHA Rookie of the Week twice.  Sydney Baldwin, Nicole Schammel, and Sophie Skarzynski were each named Offensive Player of the Week once, while Patti Marshall earned WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors once.  Baldwin also picked up a couple of monthly awards, being named as the conference's Defensive of the Month for both October and November.

International quick hits...

Agnew, Amy Potomak named to Canadian Development Team roster for Nations Cup – Current Gopher forward Lindsay Agnew (pictured right) and future Gopher Amy Potomak were named to the 21-player roster of Canada’s National Women’s Development Team that will compete at the 2018 Nations Cup in Füssen, Germany, on January 3 through 6.  Agnew is one of five returners from Canada's silver-medal winning team at the 2017 Nations Cup.  The Nations Cup – previously hosted under the names Air Canada Cup, MLP Cup, and Meco Cup – features Canada’s National Women’s Development Team as well as national teams from Finland, Germany, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland this year for four days of competition.  We wish both Lindsay and Amy good luck at the tournament.

Future Gophers Heise, Ostertag named to USA U-18 roster – GWH signees Taylor Heise and Gracie Ostertag were named on the 23-player roster for the USA Women's Under-18 National Team unveiled by USA Hockey earlier this month.  The team will be playing in the 2018 IIHF Women's U-18 World Championship in Dmitrov, Russia, starting January 6 and continuing through the Bronze- and Gold-Medal Games on January 13.  Heise and Ostertag were members of both the 2016 & 2017 teams that took gold at the U-18 World Championships.  Current GWH associate head coach Joel Johnson will continue in his role as head coach of the U.S. U-18 team, now in his 4th year in that position.

USA, Canada national teams finish exhibition schedule this weekend – The final two games of the pre-Olympic exhibition series between the U.S. and Canadian women's national teams are scheduled for this weekend. Including games played during the Four Nations Cup, the two teams have each won three contests head-to-head since the start of October.  They will play Friday, December 15, at 9 p.m. CT in San Jose, CA and Sunday, December 17, at 6 p.m. CT in Edmonton, Alberta.  Potentially eight current Gophers will be in action; alumnae Megan Bozek, Hannah Brandt, Dani Cameranesi, Amanda Kessel, Gigi Marvin, and Lee Stecklein, plus current Gopher Kelly Pannek are centralized with Team USA, while Sarah Potomak continues to train with Team Canada.  Friday's game will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network, while Sunday's game will be televised on NHL Network.

Jalosuo, Räty playing with Finland in five team tournament – GWH alumnae Mira Jalosuo and Noora Räty are currently playing with their national team of Finland in a pre-Olympic tournament being held this week and hosted by the Finns.  The national teams from Germany, Japan, Russia and Sweden are the other participants in the round-robin schedule.  Video from the tournament can be found at livestream.com/leijonat/womeneht2017.  Here are the results from the first two days of games and the remaining schedule. 

Tuesday, December 12

  • Finland 3, Japan 0
  • Sweden 3, Germany 2, OT

Wednesday, December 13

  • Germany 2, Japan 1, shootout
  • Russia 4, Sweden 1

Thursday, December 14

  • Russia vs. Germany – 4 p.m. local / 8 a.m. CST
  • Finland vs. Sweden – 7 p.m. local / 11 a.m. CST

Friday, December 15

  • Russia vs. Japan – 5 p.m. local / 9 a.m. CST
  • Germany vs. Finland – 6:30 p.m. local / 10:30 a.m. CST

Saturday, December 16

  • Sweden vs. Japan – 2 p.m. local / 6 a.m. CST
  • Finland vs. Russia – 2 p.m. local / 6 a.m. CST
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Around the WCHA

Last weekend – Wisconsin goaltender Kristen Campbell earned a pair of shutouts with back-to-back 16-save performances, defeating St Cloud State 1-0 and 3-0; Sam Cogan scored the lone goal in the first game, and Sophia Shaver recorded a goal and two assists in the second game.  Haley Mack netted 3 goals and 2 assists, Alexis Joyce added three goals and an assist, and both earned WCHA Player of the Week honors as Bemidji State swept RIT, 5-2 and 3-1.  Nine different players scored in a wild game in which Minnesota State defeated Lindenwood 5-4 on Friday; neither team held more than a one-goal lead, and Brittyn Fleming scored the gamewinner with 1:30 remaining in regulation.  However, Lindenwood took the rematch and salvaged a split with a 4-1 victory behind two goals and an assist from Kirsten Martin.

Upcoming games – Three WCHA teams wrap up their 2017 schedules with Friday and Saturday games.  Minnesota State travels north for a matinee series against Bemidji State, while Ohio State is in non-conference action, on the road against Mercyhurst.  The remaining WCHA squads are off until January. 

WCHA Standings: 1. Wisconsin – 12-0-0-0, 36 points (21-1-0 overall); 2. Minnesota – 10-4-2-0, 32 points (15-5-2 overall); 3. Ohio State – 8-2-4-3, 31 points (11-3-4 overall); 4. Minnesota Duluth – 5-8-1-1, 17 points (9-11-1 overall); 5. Bemidji State – 4-7-1-1, 14 points (8-10-2 overall); 6. St. Cloud State – 1-11-2-0, 5 points (3-14-2 overall); 7. Minnesota State – 1-9-0-0, 3 points (3-14-1 overall).