The Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s hockey team kicks off their regular season, and the Gopher women play their second series of the season this weekend when they both take on their closest opponent from across the river. Both Gophers teams will play series against St. Thomas this weekend—the men an home and home non-conference series, and the women open WCHA play with a pair of road games. Friday will be a “home” game for St. Thomas on the scoreboard, but the games will take place back to back at the Xcel Energy Center. The women’s game will face off at 4:00 PM, while the men take the ice for a 7:30 faceoff.
The Gopher men will take the ice for the first time officially this season. Minnesota defeated Bemidji State 5-2 in an exhibition game last Sunday at 3M Arena at Mariucci with freshman Oliver Moore and junior Rhett Pitlick each scoring a pair of goals. Justen Close got the start and made saves on all 12 shots he faces before leaving the goal to sophomore Zach Wiese midway through the second period.
Friday’s game will be the first official meeting between the Gophers and the Tommies since 1927. St. Thomas will start their third season of Division 1 hockey this fall. Minnesota holds an all-time 2-1 series lead after winning in just the 12th game in Gopher hockey history back in 1923, and then splitting a pair in 1926-27. The two teams met in an exhibition game back in January of 2022 at Doug Woog Arena in South St. Paul with the Gophers taking a 5-2 win.
Minnesota will look to see if they can get the new top pairing of Jimmy Snuggerud and Oliver Moore clicking. Snuggerud led the Big Ten in scoring last season playing with Mathew Knies and Logan Cooley both who are off to the NHL. The Gophers are hopeful that a player of Moore’s capability can help Snuggerud and vice versa on the ice. Moore did score a pair of goals in the exhibition game win on Sunday.
Minnesota will be without a few of their better players due to injury. Senior defenseman Mike Koster will b=miss the opening weekend with a injury he suffered in pre-season practice. Also out will be Mason Nevers who took a hit to the head from a Bemidji State player in the exhibition game and was helped off the ice. Minnesota will get back Aaron Hugelin who missed the game against Bemidji State with an injury but is set to be in the lineup as the season kicks off for real on Friday.
St. Thomas enters the weekend 1-1 after earning a 5-4 OT win at #8 St. Cloud State last Saturday and then narrowly falling to the Huskies at home 1-0 on Sunday. Wisconsin transfer Ryder Donovan scored the OT winner for the Tommies. Sophomore goalie Aaron Trotter made 33 saves to earn the win. He would make 18 saves on Sunday but the Tommies could not score on the Huskies to fall 1-0.
St. Thomas has added several local transfers in their third season of Division 1 hockey, and several of them figured on the score sheet in their win in St. Cloud. Besides Donovan the Tommies have Chaska’s James Marooney who previous played at Ohio State, St. Paul native Mathew Gleason who previously played at Colorado College, Long Lake Native Mack Byers who played at Northern Michigan, Golden Valley’s Grant Docter who played at Michigan Tech, and Edina’s Liam Malmquist who like Donovan started his career at Wisconsin. The Tommies have improved their roster quickly., but Minnesota should still have the significant edge in talent. After Friday’s game at the X the series comes back to Minneapolis for the Gophers official home opener in the newly shrunk 3M Arena at Mariucci on Saturday.
The Gopher women head into the opening weekend of WCHA Play with a 2-0 record after a season opening sweep at RIT last weekend. Minnesota took the opener 3-0 with Abbey Murphy having a hand in all three goals scoring the first pair before assisting on Madeline Wethington’s goal in the second period. Skyler Vetter made 17 saves for her ninth career shutout.
On Saturday the Gophers defeated the Tigers 5-1 getting goals from five different players including Murphy scoring her third of the weekend. Minnesota scored a goal in all three phases, full strength, on the power play and shorthanded in the win. St. Lawrence transfer Lucy Morgan got her first start in goal as a Gopher and made 18 saves allowing just a lone power play goal in the win.
Minnesota’s main goal for the weekend will be to continue to find scoring from players not named Abbey Murphy. She is an amazing player, but if the Gophers want to compete with the Wisconsin’s and Ohio States of the world they need to find more players who can consistently put the puck in the net. The Gophers enter the weekend ranked #4 in the nation.
St. Thomas heads into the opening weekend of conference play with a 4-0 record. The Tommies swept a season opening series against Franklin Pierce, and then last weekend swept Lindenwood en route to their first ever 4-0 start as a program. The Tommies added a pair of new goaltenders this season from fellow WCHA teams. 5th Year senior Calla Frank comes to the Tommies after four seasons with Minnesota State. She went 10-15-1 with a .892 save percentage and 3.46 goals-against average for the Mavericks last season. St. Thomas also added a familiar face to Minnesota fans in senior goalie Olivia King. King was a Gopher for the past four seasons playing in eight games before transferring to the Tommies. She started two games last weekend and potentially could face her old team in one of the games this weekend. Freshman Ella Borger leads the Tommies with five goals and nine total points through her first four games this season.
Minnesota has never lost to the Tommies, having a 12-0 record all-time including 4-0 in the WCHA Playoffs. Minnesota nearly blew that record last season in the final weekend of the regular season but got bailed out when Murphy scored an overtime winner to keep the Gophers record against the Tommies unblemished. But UST has a great freshman class as former Gopher assistant Joel Johnson has had time to get his recruiting in order in St. Paul. Besides Borger, the Tommies also have Rylee Bartz from Warroad who is second on the team in scoring through the first four games.
Minnesota should have the edge in this series, but the Tommies will give them a game for sure. After Friday’s game at the X the series heads to Mendota Heights on Saturday in the Tommies home rink for the second game of the series.
HOW TO WATCH:
#1/2 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs St. Thomas Tommies
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul (Fri), 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis (Sat)
When: 7:30 PM Fri; 6:00 PM Sat
TV: Fox 9 (Fri); Fox 9+ (Sat)
Stream: B1G+ (Sat)
#4 Minnesota Golden Gophers @ St. Thomas Tommies
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul (Fri), St. Thomas Ice Arena, Mendota Heights (Sat)
When: 4 PM Friday/ Saturday
TV: Fox9+ (Friday)
Stream: B1G+ ($$) (both games)
Free Audio Stream: Gophersports.com