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Minnesota Women’s Hockey: Gophers Enter Last Regular Season Weekend with Chance at Title

The Gophers will need some help, but back to back WCHA titles are in reach

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The #3 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers will complete the WCHA regular season this weekend when they host the Minnesota State Mavericks for a pair of games at Ridder Arena. The Gophers still have a chance to earn back to back WCHA Regular Season Championships, but it will take a perfect weekend form the Gophers and some help from in-state rival UMD against Wisconsin to give Minnesota a shot. In either case, the Gophers begin the first of what will be potentially four straight weekends at Ridder Arena before hopefully a trip to Boston for the Frozen Four.

The Gophers enter this weekend’s series after a big road sweep of Bemidji State on the road. Minnesota sits in second place in the WCHA, three points behind first place Wisconsin. The Badgers had a rough weekend at home against Ohio State last weekend where they only collected two out of possible six points. This allowed the Gophers to close the point gap between the two teams to three, and now very much opens the possibility of a tie for the conference title if the Gophers can get some help from UMD. The Bulldogs are in a fight with Ohio State for the #3 seed in the conference tournament as both teams are tied with 40 points. The Buckeyes get an easy series at last place St. Cloud State this weekend and thus have the inside track for the #3 spot over the Bulldogs, but UMD knows they will need to pull at least one upset if not two if they want to keep pace.

So Minnesota needs a three point differential to tie for the regular season crown—which will buy you a banner, but not much else. The Gophers would still be the #2 seed in the conference tournament and would host St Cloud next weekend in the first round of the WCHA Tournament while Wisconsin got the bye directly into the WCHA Final Faceoff. If Minnesota can outpace the Badgers by 4 or more points they would claim the regular season title outright and get the #1 seed and the weekend off. If Wisconsin keeps the point differential to 2 or less, they get sole possession of the regular season crown and the Gophers are locked into the #2 spot.

When it comes to the pairwise, the Gophers currently sit in the #3 spot behind #1 Cornell and #2 Wisconsin. Minnesota has a decent sized lead over #4 Northeastern who in turn has a decent lead over #5 Ohio State. The TL;DR version is that the Gophers barring an epic collapse are pretty much locked into a NCAA home quarterfinal appearance, the question will just be against who. If UMD can somehow play their way into the tournament from the #9 spot they are currently in, it may be the Bulldogs coming down I-35 thanks to the NCAA’s want to make travel as easy as possible seeds be damned. If UMD doesn’t make it, they every other possible team would be a flight into Minneapolis, as thus straight seeding becomes a bit more likely which would result in #6 Princeton headed to town. But, much can and will change as the conference tournaments unfold over the next few weeks.

Minnesota enters the final series of the season against Minnesota State with a 93-3-3 record all-time against the Mavericks and have won an astounding 46 games in a row against Mankato dating back to January 2010. I don’t see that streak falling on senior weekend.

Minnesota will honor their six seniors prior to Saturday’s game. They include captain defenseman Patti Marshall, forwards Alex Woken, Kippen Keller, Sarah Potomak, Katie Robinson and goalie Sydney Scobee. The senior class has led Minnesota to an overall record of 105-30-12 in 147 games from 2016-17 to 2019-20. The have made three NCAA tournament appearances, including a 2019 NCAA runner-up finish. They have earned two banners winning the 2019 WCHA regular-season championship and the 2018 WCHA Final Faceoff championship. They will look to add one more to that list this weekend, or al least get themselves in good position to try and add a pair more over the last few weeks of their collegiate careers.

This weekend’s games face off at 7PM Friday and 4PM Saturday and can be heard on 96.7 FM and on gophersports.com The first 500 people Friday night get a free scarf, and the first 500 fans Saturday get a free t-shirt.