With less than a month to go in the regular season, No. 2 Minnesota (23-1-13 overall) is undefeated in 17 games, with 16 wins and a tie (against Wisconsin Jan. 11) since an unexpected loss to Bemidji State in November. Their latest wins came over St. Cloud State, 4-0 and 7-1 respectively to complete the season sweep (highlights embedded below):
Head coach Brad Frost was happy with the way Minnesota controlled play after Saturday's effort, noting that the team looked "sluggish" in its previous game but dominated from the drop of the puck in its 7-1 romp. Indeed, seven different Gophers contributed to the scoring in the second game. Hannah Brandt (five points), Maryanne Menefee and Kelly Pannek (four points apiece) led the scoring on the weekend.
This weekend the Gophers close out their series with No. 9 Ohio State (14-10-2 overall), which had its own win streak snapped against North Dakota in a pair of 1-0 losses two weeks ago. The Buckeyes played a fairly even game with UND but went 0-for-5 on the power play for the weekend and could not get past North Dakota defense or goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie, who stopped a combined 57 shots.
Fittingly enough, Ohio State was the very team against which the Gophers rebounded after the loss to the Beavers, sweeping the weekend by scores of 4-2 and 5-3. We can probably expect a bit closer of a contest here than against some of the other teams the Gophers have faced (save for Wisconsin); OSU has a middling record in the WCHA and are better on the road (9-3-1) than at home (5-7-1). Both of its goaltenders (Kassidy Sauve and Stacy Danczak) have been solid, with Danczak having slightly better numbers (.936% and 1.33 GAA to Sauve's .920 and 2.06 GAA), and it is primarily a defensive team, with opponents scoring just 1.8 goals and getting 23.5 shots per game against the Buckeyes. Their biggest weakness could be in their offense, as they don't have a standout scorer whereas the Gophers have a handful, but a trio of forwards (Claudia Kepler, Julia McKinnon and Taylor Kuehl) lead the way, having combined for 52 points this year to date. The Gophers have clearly found their spark again after the break (though admittedly against some weaker opponents), so we'll see what happens.
Puck drop is set for 7:07 p.m. Friday and 2:07 p.m. Saturday at Ridder Arena. The Friday night game is currently being promoted as the Gophers' "Rock Ridder" night -- tickets are going for $1, so check it out if you're free and in the area.
- Here's an interesting piece on captain Rachael Bona's number being retired by her high school in Coon Rapids, which sheds some light on her early-season frustrations, how she broke out to get back to her old self scoring-wise, and her continued service to her hometown community.
- Former Gophers Kelly Terry and Sarah Davis are currently at Hockey Canada's National Team training camp, along with a future Gopher in Sarah Potomak. (Fun fact: Potomak was on the Canadian team that just earned silver at the Women's U18 Worlds in Buffalo, N.Y. earlier this month.)
- No. 8 UMD takes on North Dakota this weekend at home, in the final weeks of head coach Shannon Miller's last regular season.
- Minnesota State will host No. 3 Wisconsin this weekend. Last time these teams met, Wisconsin outscored them 16-2 overall.
- St. Cloud State has a week off before meeting up with MSU. Meanwhile, No. 10 Bemidji State (fresh off a weekend sweep by UND and currently on a three-game skid) won't play again till Feb. 6 and 7 against the Huskies.
- In CWHL action, the Inferno meet up with Montreal for another three-game weekend, Saturday through Monday, while the Blades and Furies go head-to-head at the Mastercard Centre in Toronto. Saturday's live stream will feature Boston at Toronto at 7:30 p.m., while Calgary and Montreal will be the Sunday game at 1 p.m. Check out cwhl.ca for your streaming package (remember, only $10 Canadian).
- Speaking of Calgary, here's a feature on the Inferno's Jessica Wong by Kristen Lipscombe of Metro Halifax. Wong is also currently at Team Canada's training camp, as part of a slowly growing crop of young Nova Scotians setting out to represent both province and country.