Nelli Laitinen didn't appear to be trying to score. But score she did, and it put the Gophers women's hockey team ahead for good against its archrival.
Laitinen scored the go-ahead goal in the second period when the puck she flicked towards the crease found its way into the net, and the second-ranked Gophers went on to beat third-ranked Wisconsin 5-3 on Friday night to open a series at Ridder Arena.
Abbey Murphy continued her hot streak with a pair of first-period goals sandwiched around a major penalty, and Lucy Morgan improved to 7-0 this season by making 33 saves for the Gophers (15-2-1, 11-2-1 WCHA), who are unbeaten in their past 10 games (9-0-1).
"Just an awesome win here tonight, I'm so proud of our group," coach Brad Frost said. "They're resilient, they're tough and they defend. Lucy played great in net, while the offense scored big goals at big times. Any time you win a game in the Border Battle it's a big deal."
Laitinen, a sophomore defender from Finland, flicked the puck towards the net from just inside the blue line along the left boards. Emma Kreisz, standing in the faceoff circle, ducked to move out of the way of the floating puck, which Badgers goalie Jane Gervais didn't appear to see at all until after it flew over her right shoulder and into the net, putting the Gophers ahead 3-2 at the 7:03 mark of the second period.
The Gophers doubled their lead at 11:36 when Sadie Lindsay scored for the second time this season, converting after the Badgers turned the puck over in their own zone. Early in the third period, Solveig Neunzert scored her first college goal, picking up a pass from Lindsay and firing it past a crowd.
Casey O'Brien scored with 5:58 left in the game for the Badgers, but it was too little, too late as Wisconsin (13-5, 9-5) lost its second game in a row.
Murphy, who had eight points last weekend against Bemidji State and was named WCHA player of the week for the second week in a row, continued her tear in the first period when she picked up the puck at center ice, skated in along the right boards and then crossed in front of the net and scored with her backhand at the 7:30 mark. The goal was the 100th point of her college career.
Maddi Wheeler tied it up 46 seconds later for the Badgers, and at the 10:17 mark Murphy was sent to the penalty box for a major slashing call. Only 10 seconds into the power play, the Badgers took a 2-1 lead on Kirsten Simms' goal.
That was it for Wisconsin on the five-minute advantage, though, and soon after she returned the Gophers went on the power play. At 16:32, Murphy tied the score at 2-2 with a one-time snipe from the left circle.