So far, the team has looked far more confident and composed than the team I saw finish up last year – and that team won Big Ten regular season and tournament championships – so I wanted to weigh that eye test against some basic statistics.
It’s tough to compare across multiple seasons because a team’s players (and certainly its opponents) can change so much year to year. But it’s still interesting to note that things haven’t changed much for the Gophers. They still shoot a lot (they lead the Big Ten is shots per game), they do a decent job of putting shots on goal, and a decent job of scoring overall. Most of the improvements statistically have come in form of defense – opponents got fewer chances, those chances weren’t as good or accurate, and that led to fewer goals. Again, some of this could be attributed to the quality of opponent but the eye test confirms what the stats seem to suggest: these Gophers are tough as nails and fun to watch.
What sticks out on all three, though, is that opponents have really been stifled this season by the team’s speed/strength/grit/defense: pic.twitter.com/nwV0dOOPAB
— Matt Privratsky (@MattPrivratsky) September 11, 2017
Sept. 8, 2017 – St. Paul
The Gophers wrapped up non-conference play by absolutely trouncing the Aggies of Utah State. For the first 40 minutes, Minnesota seemed to be stuck in a familiar pattern – dominating possession with sharp passing and strong defending, but failing to put together the final pass and finish necessary to score. Then, as I sent my obligatory “they better turn it up” tweet, Julianna Gernes made me look like a fool by breaking a defender’s legs on the Aggie six-yard box and rocketing a shot into the side netting.
Just an absolutely filthy finish from Julianna Gernes with the assist from Fiedler and Castro. Up 1-0 on Utah State. 39th min. pic.twitter.com/Pv5mczil5E
— Matt Privratsky (@MattPrivratsky) September 9, 2017
From there, the flood gates were open. Not only did the Gophers score four more goals (including two by different freshman earning their first major minutes), they smothered Utah State. Goalkeeper Kailee Sharp returned to record her third shutout in four starts and the team really did seem to play an even more composed and crisp game than usual. After eking out a 1-0 win a week ago in its third double overtime match, you could tell the team was excited get a good result heading into conference play next week.
— BTN Student U (@BTNStudentU) September 9, 2017
4 p.m., Sept. 16: Wisconsin, Madison
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