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Gophers Head Into Big Ten Play After Demolishing Utah State

by on 12 September 2017

Minnesota wrapped up non-conference play with a big win over Utah State. Now, the Gophers have to see how their quick hitting, dynamic attack will play against a tougher Big Ten schedule – starting on the road in Wisconsin.

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.

 

Minnesota 5, Utah State 0

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.

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.

Next up

4 p.m., Sept. 16: Wisconsin, Madison


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