WCHA play opens for Minnesota (2-0-0 overall) against St. Cloud State Friday, and the odds are heavily in the Gophers' favor.
St. Cloud State is also 2-0-0 overall after sweeping Merrimack College last weekend in a non-conference matchup. Senior Lexi Slattery scored four points (3 goals, 1 assist) to lead her team, and sophomore Brittany Anderson added in four assists over the weekend. The Huskies also scored 12 goals over two games (six apiece).
That's about where the comparison might end. The Gophers hold a 67-3-2 all-time record over the Huskies, and have won the last five games (at least), outscoring them by a 35-1 margin last season. Needless to say, games haven't been played incredibly close.
Still, this is a different St. Cloud State team from the one we saw last year, with eight new players in the fold -- including a transfer goaltender from Northeastern by the name of Taylor Crosby. (If that name sounds familiar to you, then yes, you know why.) They also have the Finnish Women's League's 2012 Rookie of the Year in Suvi Ollikainen and a potentially killer forward in Ivy Dynek, who was a standout in the Chicago Young American hockey club with 42 goals and 35 assists two seasons ago.
Meanwhile, as stated last week, Minnesota has nine of its own newcomers, but returns much of the same in terms of depth. Newly named co-captain Hannah Brandt can make Gophers history this year, just eight goals shy of 100 and 24 points away from overtaking Natalie Darwitz as Minny's all-time leading scorer. Milica McMillen can also hit 100 career points this year.
Meanwhile, a few youngsters are making their mark -- sophomores Cara Piazza and Kelly Pannek, as well as freshman Sarah Potomak, stood out last weekend against the Nittany Lions, blending in well and creating great chances alongside the vets on the team. Amanda Leveille and Sidney Peters haven't been tested much yet, but have stood up when necessary. Overall, it's a tough, fast and methodical Minnesota squad that will face the Huskies, which thankfully is nothing new. The real story will be seeing what kind of St. Cloud team shows up.
For more info on the Gophers-Huskies matchup, check out the official preview here. The puck drops at 7:07 p.m. CDT (8:07 Eastern) at Ridder Arena Friday and 4:07 p.m. (5:07) on Saturday.