The #4 Gopher Women’s Hockey team will try and get back on track after a disappointing opening weekend split with Mercyhurst this weekend when they open WCHA play by hosting the Ohio State Buckeyes. But it will not be an easy task as Ohio State may have the nation’s best goaltender in Kassidy Sauve.
The Gophers were upset in their season opener last Friday by Mercyhurst. Minnesota lost 4-3 after blowing a 3-1 lead. Senior Sidney Peters started in net and gave up four goals on 12 shots before being yanked and replaced with freshman Alex Gulstene. Gulstene did not allow a goal in the last period and a half of Friday’s game and then came back to backstop Minnesota to a 4-1 win on Sunday. Here are a few items to watch in this weekend’s series:
- Who plays in net for Minnesota? Gulstene got the start in Sunday’s game and Gopher coach Brad Frost said the plan was for them to split the series before the weekend. So what happens this weekend? Do they go back to splitting games, or did Gulstene win the starting job and will see the majority of the action going forward. I guess we will see.
- Who can put the puck in the net? The Gophers put 54 shots on goal in their season opening loss, but only scored three goals. The answer after two games appears to be freshman Grace Zumwinkle who has two goals in two games. Additionally junior Nicole Schammel scored two goals in the Sunday victory to tie Zumwinkle for the team lead. Minnesota will need both those players and more to continue to put the puck in the net.
- Can the Gophers stay healthy? Minnesota junior Taylor Williamson left Friday night’s game with an injury that according to Brad Frost will keep her out for a decent period of time. Minnesota does not have a deep roster with three players who should have been here off trying to make Olympic teams. On Saturday the Gophers needed to move Sophie Skarzynski from her defensive spot up to forward to have a full four lines, which left Minnesota with only 5 defensemen. It is a workable situation for the moment, but any other injuries will put Minnesota in a very rough spot going forward.
- Special Teams Play—its key right? Minnesota went 2-7 on the power play last weekend with Zumwinkle tallying both goals. The Gophers will need to take advantage of chances against the Buckeyes this weekend as Sauve is just too talented to try and beat even strength. Minnesota was a perfect 4-4 on the penalty kill last weekend as well, and that will need to be another strength of this team going forward.
- Who can meat Kassidy Sauve? The Buckeye goalie was named the Preseason WCHA Player of the Year after finishing the 2016-17 season with a .942 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average. Sauve allowed just eight goals in four games against the Gophers a year ago going 0-3-1. The goals will not come easy for Minnesota, but as the stats show, keeping the Buckeyes off the scoresheet will be just as important. Buckeye freshman Tatum Skaggs scored three goals in a sweep of RPI last weekend to tie for the National Lead in goals and was named the WCHA Player of the Week
- Playing against Familiar foes. Both Buckeye head coach Nadine Muzerall and assistant Milica McMillen were Gopher greats. Muzerall took the OSU head job a month before the season a year ago and led them to a fifth place finish in the WCHA. McMillen joined the Buckeyes this season after ending her playing career with the NWHL’s New York Riveters.
Ohio State Buckeyes at #4 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Where: Ridder Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota
When: 7:00 Pm Friday, 3:00 PM Saturday
Video Stream: BTN + (SS)
Audio Stream: FREE