Heading into his eighth postseason as head coach of the Gophers, Brad Frost has realized the unfortunate truth that befalls his team every year at this time.
“We know that we are measured by whether we win a national championship or not,” Frost said. “I don’t think its fair, but it’s a reality.”
Last year, the Gophers fell one game short of a third straight championship after coming in the top ranked team in the nation. This year, they have been ranked second-best all year due in part to a couple early season hiccups.
Tonight, Minnesota begins its road to redemption as they host Minnesota State-Mankato in the first round of the WCHA tournament. As the team progresses through the brackets in pursuit of the returning to the Frozen Four at Ridder Arena, check here for previews of each matchup.
No. 2 Minnesota Gophers (38-2-1) vs. Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks (3-30-1)
Gophers offense vs. Mavericks defense: Minnesota’s attack features four of the top six scorers in the WCHA, and that doesn’t even include experienced scorers in seniors Meghan Lorence and Rachael Bona. No matter which line Brad Frost throws out on the ice, the Gophers are a threat to score, especially now that freshman Cara Piazza has emerged as a legitimate scoring threat on the third line. Dani Cameranesi and Maryanne Menefee have both already recorded hat tricks against the Mavericks defense this year, which ranks last in the WCHA giving up 4.61 goals per game. It’ll be interesting just how many goals Frost allows before calling off the dogs. Advantage: Gophers
Gophers defense vs. Mavericks offense: With Milica McMillen having to sit out Friday’s game with a suspension, the Gophers defense will lose some talent and depth but it shouldn’t matter too much as Mankato is only averaging 1.07 goals per WCHA contests. Sophomores Megan Wolfe and Kelsey Cline will be called upon to play more minutes, with Wolfe coming off one of her better series last weekend against Bemidji State. Nine Gophers have outscored Mankato’s top scorer, freshman Nicole Schammel, who has only recorded 21 points. Mankato just doesn’t have the firepower needed to break this Gophers defense. Advantage: Gophers
Goaltending: Mankato goalie Erin Krichiver has yet to record a shutout all year and has already given up 16 goals to the Gophers in three games. All three Minnesota goalies have won starts against the Mavericks this season, but we should see Amanda Leveille starting the games this weekend. There might be a Sidney Peters sighting in one of the third periods, but regardless, this one is easy. Advantage: Gophers
Prediction: Gophers win series 2-0, Game 1 (5-0), Game 2 (4-1).