The #2 ranked Gopher Womens Hockey Team will look to jump start the second half of their season this weekend with a series at #4 UMD that will have major WCHA title race implications. Minnesota will put its 21 game unbeaten streak against the Bulldogs on the line, and UMD will look to get back into the race for the top of the WCHA standings with a big win.
Minnesota is coming off of a weekend where they played two games, but only counted one in the standings. The Gophers hosted the Minnesota Whitecaps Professional team last Friday night and won 5-4 on an overtime winner by Lee Stecklein. Sunday the Gophers defeated Minnesota State 5-3 in the US College Hockey Hall of Fame Game at Bremar Arena in Edina. Kelly Pannek picked up two goals and two assists to add to her national leading 43 points on the season. While the Mavericks are a WCHA opponent, the game will go down as a non-conference game.
The Gophers go into the series in Duluth one point behind Wisconsin in the WCHA standings. Minnesota will look to sweep the Bulldogs to keep pace with the Badgers. Minnesota does have a 21-game unbeaten streak against UMD, going 20-0-1 in that stretch. Minnesota added to that tally with a sweep of UMD in October at Ridder Arena by scores of 4-3 and a 3-2 OT victory.
Offensively, the Gophers have been led by Pannek. She is dominating the nation wthis season with 44 points, nine more than any other player. She also is currently #1 in the nation in, points per game (2.1), assists (33), and assists per game (1.57). Meanwhile Minnesota will hope to see the return of senior forward Dani Camaranesi this weekend. Camaranesi has missed the last four games for Minnesota after suffering a knee injury in the series in Madison against the Badgers in early December. She would make an immediate offensive impact to the Gophers, as she leads the nation in goals per game with 1.06. Even missing four games, she is tied for 6th in the nation with teammate Sarah Potomak with 33 points on the season.
One key to the Gophers weekend will be their special teams. The Gophers have excelled on the power play this season, leading the nation with a 31.7 percent success rate. Pannek leads the team with five power play goals, which is good enough for third in the nation. They also have dominated while short a player. Minnesota has killed off 55 of 59 short handed situations this season, and they lead the nation in the least penalty minutes per game with six.
UMD comes into the series in third place in the WCHA and ranked #4 in the nation. Laura Stalder leads the Bulldogs with 27 points on the season, while Ashleigh Brykaliuk leads the team with 12 goals. Maddie Rooney has been great in net this season for UMD, and she enters this weekend with a 13-4-3 record with a 94% save percentage and a 1.64 goals against average. She has played all but six minutes in net for the Bulldogs this season.
UMD will look to get the Gophers in a defensive battle. Rooney has the ability to steal a game, and Gopher goalie Sidney Peters has been inconsistent at times this season. If the Bulldogs can catch her on one of her bad nights, then UMD could easily look to split the series. But, if Minnesota gets Camaranesi back and they can put back together the scoring line of Pannek, Camaranesi, and Potomak, it could be a rough weekend for UMD. Either way it should be a great weekend of hockey, and one that you can see part of. Friday’s game will air live on Fox Sports North at 3:00 PM.
The Gophers are also celebrating an award for one of their coaching staff. Associate Head Coach Joel Johnson will be honored in April at the American Hockey Coaches Association Meetings with the ACHA Women’s College Hockey Assistant Coaches Award. Johnson will not get to celebrate with his team this weekend however as he is still in the Czech Republic coaching the US Undee-18 Women’s National Team at the World Championships. The US plays Russia in the Semifinals on Friday, and is expected to face Canada in the Gold Medal Game on Saturday afternoon.
#2 Minnesota Golden Gophers at #4 UMD Bulldogs
Where: Amsoil Arena, Duluth, Minnesota
When: 3:00 PM Friday and Saturday
TV: Friday—Fox Sports North Sat-No TV
Live Audio: FREE