CANTON An 0-4 start to the season is not what the St. Lawrence University womens hockey team was hoping for, but the Saints are using games against top-caliber opponents to build for the rest of the season.
This weekend, top-ranked Minnesota, the defending national champion, taught the lessons as the Golden Gophers completed a two-game sweep with a 6-0 win over the Saints Saturday afternoon at Appleton Arena.
Minnesota (6-0 overall) has outscored its opposition 40-1 so far this season, has never trailed and has scored goals on 43.3 percent of its power plays. The Golden Gophers also scored four short-handed goals this weekend.
From this one weekend we saw a lot of stuff that we can build on and get better, SLU defenseman Amanda Boulier said. I think its a building weekend, and playing the best team is the best way to do that.
The Saints were one of eight teams to play in the NCAA Tournament last year, but the first two teams theyve faced this year Clarkson and Minnesota are both ranked in the top 10. SLUs next game is a nonconference contest at No. 2 Cornell on Oct. 23.
Its been great for us, Saints coach Chris Wells said. Obviously the results arent what we want, but weve been playing some great hockey. Im really happy with the team. Weve been getting some great efforts. That was the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. They just went right through here. I think the (freshmen) are starting out with these first four games that have a very high standard of what the games are going to be like this year.
Even though Minnesota outscored SLU 11-0 over the weekend the Golden Gophers headed back to Minneapolis with respect for SLU.
That was the best team weve played so far, said Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt, a member of the U.S. national team. Its a lot more even matchup (than the scores) and it was a lot of fun to play.
A key for Minnesota this weekend was never to let the Saints feel like theyd have a chance to pull off an upset, which required squelching every opportunity SLU may have had to get any momentum.
The Saints had a shot from Kailee Heidersbach hit the post just three minutes into the game and thought theyd have a chance to possibly take a lead 30 seconds later when Minnesotas Sarah Davis was called for slashing.
But Brandt capitalized on an SLU mistake and scored a short-handed breakaway goal at 4 minutes, 26 seconds of the first period to give the Gophers an early 1-0 lead.
Their forwards were really difficult to play against, Boulier said. They are really fast and every mistake that we made, they capitalized on. I think that was the difference.
Said Gophers coach Brad Frost, Thats what we want to do is take away their hope early and we know our goaltending and defense will hold up.
Milica McMillen, Amanda Kessel, Kelly Terry, Becky Kortum and Sarah Davis also went on to score for Minnesota. Noora Raty stopped 21 shots in two periods and Kingston, Ontario, native Amanda Leveille played the third period and stopped six shots.