The Gopher Women’s Hockey team faces a do or die task on Saturday afternoon. Either the Gophers defeat Minnesota-Duluth in Duluth for the first time this season, or their season is over and the quest for a third straight NCAA Championship is dead. The Gophers will head up I-35 for the NCAA Quarterfinal against the Bulldogs at Amsoil Arena at 2:30 Saturday afternoon.
It will be a different experience for the Gophers to play on the road in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Minnesota has not had to travel for the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 2011 when Minnesota lost to Boston College in Boston. That was the season before Minnesota began its run of five consecutive NCAA Championship games and four titles in five seasons. However, that could all come to a crashing halt Saturday.
The Gophers will travel to UMD as the Bulldogs got the #3 national seed in the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota and UMD have faced off five times this season with UMD winning the last three—a series in Duluth in January and a 2-1 double overtime thriller last Saturday in the WCHA Final Face-off semifinal. Minnesota will hope to break that streak and avenge the only game between the two schools in the NCAA Tournament, a 3-2 overtime victory by UMD in the NCAA Semifinals in 2010 when the Bulldogs won their last national championship.
For Minnesota to win and advance, they will have to solve two players who have stymied them in recent games. Patty Kazmaier Award Finalist and WCHA Player of the Year Laura Stalder leads UMD with 23 goals and 56 points on the season. She scored the baseball-like goal in double overtime to propel the Bulldogs over Minnesota last weekend.
But the biggest threat to Minnesota is UMD goalie Maddy Rooney. Rooney was unbelievable last Saturday making 62 saves in the win over Minnesota. She has allowed only 61 goals in 34 games this season for the Bulldogs. Somehow, someway Minnesota will need to add a few to that tally.
The Gophers got a big boost when senior Dani Camaranesi returned to the lineup against the Bulldogs last Saturday. Camaranesi who had ankle surgery in January was thought to be out for the season, but she surprised everyone by returning last weekend. She put 14 shots on Rooney last Saturday but could not get one through. Minnesota wil lneed her to find the back of the net this weekend if they want to move on. Additionally the Gophers will need to get an amazing game from goalie Sidney Peters. She struggled earlier in the season but has been sharp the last three games holding Wisconsin to one goal in each of the two games against Minnesota in February, and giving up just two goals to UMD. But, as we saw last weekend two may be too much. She may need to match Rooney save for save to save the Gophers season.
After Saturday, one maroon and gold team will advance to the NCAA Frozen Four in St. Charles, Missouri next weekend. The winner of the Minnesota/UMD game will take on the winner of Clarkson and Cornell on Friday. Hopefully it will be Minnesota advancing for the sixth year in a row.
HOW TO WATCH
Minnesota Golden Gophers @ #3 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs
Where: Amsoil Arena—Duluth, MN
When: 2:30 PM Saturday
Video: FREE STREAM
Audio: FREE STREAM
Live Stats: HERE