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Minnesota Women’s Hockey: Gophers Look to Clinch First WCHA Regular Season Title Since 2019

Minnesota needs up to four points this weekend to hang a banner

Matt Krohn—Gophersports.com

The Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team finishes off the 2021-22 regular season this weekend in a home and home series against the St. Thomas Tommies. Minnesota can clinch their first WCHA regular season title since 2019 this weekend by recording anywhere between one and four points in the pair of games depending on the results of the series between Wisconsin and Ohio State who are both currently tied for second place. It should not be too hard against the last place team in the league, but the Tommies would love to spoil the Gophers party.

Minnesota has won five games in a row and seven of their last eight to close out the regular season. Minnesota has gotten the necessary sweeps of sixth place Bemidji State and seventh place St. Cloud State the last two weeks, and thanks to some faltering behind them in the standings behind the Buckeyes and Badgers, they don’t even need a sweep against 8th place St. Thomas, but you can be sure the Gophers want all six points.

The Gophers defeated the Tommies twice in a home and home earlier in the season picking up an 8-0 win at Ridder Arena and a 8-2 win at St. Thomas. The Tommies are even more shorthanded than they were in that series as their starting goaltender Saskia Maurer and defense Nicole Vallario who just finished in fourth place with Switzerland in the Olympics. Head coach Joel Johnson is also missing as he is the head coach of the US Olympic Team. The Tommies are completing their first season as a Division I program and currently have a 5-23-1 overall record and a 3-21-1 record in WCHA play.

Not only will the Gophers be looking to get a pair of wins to hang a banner, a pair of Gophers will be looking to try and record as many points as possible to try and lead both the conference and nation. Taylor Heise leads the nation with 55 points on the season while her linemate Abigail Boreen is 8th with 46. Heise’s 23 goals on the season ranks third in the nation...and in the WCHA as she trails Wisconsin’s Daryl Watts who has 25 and the Badger’s Casey O’Brien who has 24. The Badgers will face Ohio State this weekend, while Minnesota can try and run up the score against the Tommies. If Heise can lead the nation in scoring, she has to be a favorite to bring home the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best women’s college hockey player in the nation as well.

Minnesota leads the WCHA with a .795 won points percentage. Wisconsin and Ohio State are tied for second at .760. The Gophers control their own destiny for the title. Minnesota can clinch the championship with as few as one point, but it could possibly take up to four depending on the results of the Wisconsin/OSU series. The full breakdown is below:

If one of OSU/WI sweeps Minnesota needs 4 or more points to win the regular season title

If OSU/WI records 5 points, Minnesota needs 3 or more points

If OSU/WI records four points, Minnesota needs 2 or more points

If OSU/WI split the series, the Gophers only need one point to win the regular season title.

The Gophers and Tommies will play a unique Thursday/Saturday series this weekend. Thursday night’s game will face off at 7 PM and will take place at the St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights. Saturday’s game will face-off at 4PM at Ridder Arena. Wisconsin and Ohio State will play Friday evening and Saturday afternoon so it is possible the Gophers may have done enough to clinch the WCHA title after Thursday night’s game, but they won’t officially know until the completion of the Saturday Buckeye/Badger game. Thus, the Gophers don’t need to scoreboard watch, they just need to take care of business, get their sweep and get ready to host the Tommies again next weekend in the First Round of the WCHA Playoffs.

The Gophers will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday afternoon. The Gophers will honor 12 players— Lauren Bench, Abigail Boreen, Emily Brown, Kyleigh Hanzlik, Taylor Heise, Crystalyn Hengler, Olivia Knowles, Savannah Norcross, Emily Oden, Gracie Ostertag, Amy Potomak, and Catie Skaja. Only Bench, Brown, and Knowles will have used up all five years of eligibility and will definitely not return in 2022-23. The other nine players may all return next season if the Gophers have room on their roster. Hopefully the seniors on the roster can finish the job and earn a little hardware on their way out.