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Gophers to close out regular season play in Bemidji, gear up for WCHA First Round

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Fresh off a sweep of UMD, Minnesota has Minnesota State to look forward to in the WCHA First Round -- but first, it's Bemidji State, a team still looking for its place in the playoffs. That and more in this week's roundup. Division I Women's Poll:

  1. Boston College
  2. Minnesota
  3. Harvard
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Quinnipiac
  6. Boston University
  7. Clarkson/North Dakota
  8. ---
  9. St. Lawrence
  10. Cornell
No. 2 Minnesota (27-2-4, 19-2-3 WCHA) secured its third-straight WCHA championship (and ninth overall) with a 2-0 win against UMD Saturday at Ridder Arena. Lee Stecklein and Dani Cameranesi scored and Amanda Leveille made 17 saves in her sixth shutout victory of the season.

The night before, the Gophers had routed the Bulldogs, 7-1. Seniors Rachel Ramsey and Meghan Lorence fittingly led the way on the eve of their team's Senior Day with a goal and two assists, and Stecklein, Maryanne Menefee, Cara Piazza, Hannah Brandt, and Kelly Pannek rounded out the offense for Minnesota, who fired on all cylinders in their first game.

The Gophers close out regular season play at Bemidji State (18-13-1, 13-12-1 WCHA), who is currently on a four-game winning streak after facing off against St. Cloud State and Minnesota State their past two weekends. If you need reminding, it was BSU who handed the Gophers their first loss of the season,1-0, on Nov. 1, after tying them 2-2 on Halloween night. The Beavers have had halfway decent results against better competition this season besides Minnesota, keeping things close in losses for the most part and actually grinding out a win and overtime loss against Wisconsin in mid-January. Not a high-scoring team, they instead rely on good defense and excellent goaltending from both Brittni Mowat and Erin Deters to keep them in games. Minnesota's offense is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was in October, but finding ways past that defense will be key. BSU is also still looking for home-ice advantage in the WCHA First Round, as an added bonus to what they're playing for in this final weekend.

Puck drop is at 2:07 p.m. Central (3:07 Eastern) both Friday and Saturday in Bemidji.
  • Dani Cameranesi picked up WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors after the sweep of UMD last weekend. This is the third time this season she's been recognized for her efforts.
  • The Gophers will face eighth-place Minnesota State in the WCHA First Round. Minnesota swept the Mavericks in the regular-season series, outscoring them 14-4 in their last two meetings.
  • Seventh-place St. Cloud State will travel to No. 2 Wisconsin as well, while UMD (along with the Beavers) is still battling for home ice advantage as well. The Huskies actually play Wisconsin in their final weekend of the regular season too, while the Bulldogs close out at home against Ohio State.
  • It's Toronto at Montreal and Brampton at Boston this weekend, as the Blades stand poised to take first place away from the Calgary Inferno (who have an off weekend). At this point, it'll take some inspired play to get past both Boston and Calgary next weekend for the Thunder to have a chance at the last seed in the playoffs, but anything can happen... right?
  • The Saturday 6 p.m. game between Toronto and Montreal is the only game being streamed this week. If you haven't gotten your streaming package by now, what are you waiting for?
  • The CWHL is teaming up with HIGH FIVE, a division of Parks and Recreation Ontario that provides quality standards for recreation organizations for kids aged 6-12, to create an initiative called #HIGHFIVE4Girls. HIGH FIVE organizations will receive free tickets to a Clarkson Cup game, and you can join in on social media using the hashtag provided above. More info here.
  • Check out this video on Sportsnet about the league and its players. Pretty basic stuff, but still worthy of a look, featuring the Inferno's Jacquie Pierri, SPHL goalie Shannon Szabados (more on her in a minute), CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress and others.
  • The IIHF Women's Worlds are set for the end of March in Malmo, Sweden, and four current and former Gophers alike are on the U.S. roster. Dani Cameranesi, Hannah Brandt, Lee Stecklein and Gopher alum Anne Schleper will help the Americans try and capture a sixth gold medal. The full roster is here.
  • Unfortunately, Hayley Wickenheiser will not be in the Worlds this year due to season-ending surgery on her foot.
  • Hey, how about Shannon Szabados? CBC The National has a good feature on her time in the SPHL with the Columbia Cottonmouths here.