The Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team begins postseason play this weekend when they host last place St. Thomas in a best-of-three series at Ridder Arena. Its the first of what should be three weekends in a row for the Gophers at home in the postseason as they host the WCHA Final Faceoff next weekend, and they seem to have locked up a home NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal the following weekend. Minnesota will get to showcase their seven All-WCHA Team honorees who were named on Wednesday as well.
Minnesota enters the postseason on a seven game winning streak that clinched them their first WCHA regular season championship since 2018-19. The Gophers closed out the regular season last weekend with a home and home sweep of St. Thomas and now gets to face the Tommies once again. This time the Tommies will have their full roster for the first time while facing Minnesota as Swiss Olympians Saskia Maurer and Nicole Vallario will join the team for the first time since the holiday break. Also back is head coach Joel Johnson who coached the US Olympic Team to a silver medal in Beijing.
The Gophers will look to see a big weekend out of their stars. Senior center Taylor Heise finished the regular season with 60 points to lead the nation in scoring. Her 26 goals tied her for the most in the country as well. It’s no surprise then that she was named the the All-WCHA First Team on Wednesday. Heise’s linemate Abigial Boreen who has had the best season of her career was named to the All-WCHA Second Team. Her 52 points and 21 goals put her in the top ten in the nation in both categories. A pair of Gopher defenders were named to the All-WCHA third team. Fifth year senior Emily Brown and junior Madeline Wethington were both honored, Brown for the fourth time in her career, and Wethington for the second consecutive season.
The Gophers filled three of the six spots on the All-WCHA Rookie Team. Freshmen Peyton Hemp, Ella Huber and Emily Zumwinkle were all named to the team. All three have played large roles in helping the Gophers to all ready hang one banner this season.
The WCHA individual awards will be announced next week with the Offensive Player, Defensive Player, Goaltender, and Rookie of the Year are set to be announced on Tuesday, March 1, followed by Coach and Outstanding Scholar-Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, March 2. The 2021-22 WCHA Player of the Year will be announced on Thursday, March 3.
By that point the Gophers should have taken care of St. Thomas and will be looking ahead to attempt to win their first WCHA Final Faceoff since 2017-18.
Minnesota’s series opener against the Tommies begins at 6PM Friday night with game two at 4PM Saturday. If for some reason St. Thomas can pull an epic upset and force game 3, it will face-off at 2PM on Sunday.