After finishing the regular season with a sweep of Minnesota State, the Gophers' women's hockey team now shifts its focus to reclaiming the WCHA championship. Minnesota fell to Wisconsin last season after winning it in 2018.
The Gophers enter the conference tournament as the No. 2-seed after finishing just two points behind the Wisconsin Badgers in the regular season standings. The Badgers have a bye this week while the Gophers face the last place St. Cloud State Huskies at Ridder Arena.
The road won't be easy for Minnesota. The No. 3 Gophers play in the toughest conference in the country, with 4 teams (including them) in the top-10 in the NCAA: Wisconsin (2nd), Ohio State (5th), and Minnesota-Duluth (9th).
The Gophers hold a .500 record against each of the three teams this season. One advantage for the Gophers, however, is that they will never have to leave the comforts of Ridder Arena. Minnesota plays host to the tournament this season.
Barring a completely unforeseen chain of events, Minnesota's chances of advancing into next weekend are high. The St. Cloud State Huskies enter the weekend series with dismal record of 6-23-4 and have already been swept by Minnesota this season. The Gophers' all-time record versus St. Cloud State is 91-3-3.
If the Huskies have success this weekend, they will have to sneak up on the Gophers and score early. When Minnesota has faced a hot goaltender and let pucks in the net early in the game, they are have been the most vulnerable. The Gophers have given up the first goal in all five of their losses.
However, any chance of catching the Gophers are at a bad time seem to have faded. They climbed out of a tough stretch of the middle of their season when they dropped three of four games to Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth by sweeping both Bemidji State and Minnesota State.
To do so, the Huskies will need to solve senior goaltender Sydney Scobee. Scobee was named the top WCHA regular-season goalie. She finished the regular season with a 1.63 goals against average, 17 wins, a .934 save percentage and six shutouts in 24 WCHA league games.
The opening game of the best two-out-of-three series begins 6:37 p.m. on Friday, with Saturday’s game starting at 2:07 p.m.. If necessary, the third game will be played on Sunday at 2:07 p.m.