The Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s hockey team will open the postseason this weekend when they host a first round best-of-three series with the St. Cloud State Huskies at Ridder Arena. Minnesota is the #2 seed in the WCHA Tournament and St. Cloud is the #7 seed. The winner will advance to the WCHA Final Faceoff at Ridder next weekend.
The Gophers completed the regular season last weekend with a home sweep of Minnesota State. The Gophers easily picked up a 5-1 win on Friday and a 3-0 win on Saturday to up their season record to 25-5-3. Minnesota with the sweep was tied with Wisconsin for first place in the WCHA headed into the Badgers final game of the season at UMD on Sunday. It appeared for a majority of the third period of that game that UMD might help Minnesota earn a share of the WCHA crown, but on the two year anniversary of her winning the Olympic Gold medal for the US with a huge win over Canada UMD goalie Maddie Rooney allowed Wisconsin to score two goals in the last 90 seconds of regulation to erase a 5-3 UMD lead and send the game into OT. That gave Wisconsin the one point they needed to win the conference outright. Thus the Gophers play this weekend while the Badgers get a week off.
Minnesota should not be challenged too much by the Huskies. The Gophers went 4-0 this season against SCSU with 3-0 and 4-2 wins at home in October and 4-1 and 3-0 wins in St. Cloud in January. In fact Minnesota has won 12 straight over the Huskies and has an all-time record of 91-3-3 against St. Cloud dating back to 1997. Minnesota’s goal is to win both games, get out and stay healthy before the competition takes a steep upturn next weekend.
Assuming the Gophers advance next weekend they would take on the highest remaining seed of the other two teams that would make it to the Final Faceoff along with Minnesota and Wisconsin. The other two first round matchups pair #3 seed Ohio State hosting #6 Minnesota State, and #4 UMD hosting #5 Bemidji State. Most likely the Gophers will see the Buckeyes next weekend in the WCHA semifinal—which is not an amazing matchup for Minnesota. Ohio State is the one team other than Wisconsin that they have struggled against this season going 2-2 on the year with splits in both Columbus and Minneapolis. The two teams also may be playing for NCAA seeding as well which will add even more importance to the matchup.
Minnesota will need to rely on the strength of it’s team and it’s award winners. The All-WCHA Teams were announced on Thursday and Minnesota had six honorees. Senior goalie Sydney Scobee was named First Team All-WCHA and is the obvious favorite to be named the WCHA Goalie of the Year when that award is announced next week. Scobee led the WCHA with a 1.63 goals against average, .933 save percentage, 17 wins, and six shutouts in 24 league games. For the year, she ranks sixth in the nation with a 1.56 goals against average and comes in 10th in the country with a .934 save percentage.
Junior defense Emily Brown and junior forward Graze Zumwinkle were named Second Team All-WCHA. Brown recorded sixteen points on the season and is a shut doen defender on the league’s #1 defense. Zumwinkle is tied for the team scoring lead with 41 points and leads the Gophers with 22 goals on the year. In WCAH play Zumwinkle ranked sixth with 31 points and her 16 goals were third among WCHA players.
Senior forward Sarah Potomak and sophomore forward Taylor Heise were both named Third Team All-WCHA. Potomak is tied for the team scoring lead with 41 points and she leads Minnesota with 23 assists on the season. In WCHA play Potomak ranked ninth with 27 points (11g-16a). Heise recorded 29 points (14g-15a) in 24 WCHA games, good for seventh in scoring. Overall Heise is third on the team in scoring with a career-high 39 points (17g-22a).
Freshman defense Madeline Wethington was named to the All-WCHA Rookie Team. Wethington led WCHA rookies with 29 blocked shots and recorded nine points (3g-6a) in 24 conference games to tie for fifth in scoring among WCHA rookies in league play.
The Gophers and Huskies will face-off at 6:30 on Friday night and 2PM on Saturday afternoon. If a third game is needed they teams will rematch at 2PM on Sunday. The games will stream for a fee on BTN+ and free audio can be heard on gophersports.com.