The Gophers tied Ohio State last Saturday, a rare result for the top-ranked team in the country. This weekend, the Gophers responded by handily sweeping Minnesota State-Mankato in a home-and-home series. “The thing that was disappointing about last weekend was that we were flat and didn’t have a lot of energy,” head coach Brad Frost said. “I thought this weekend in both of our games, our team played really well, up on their toes.”
At age 23, Sarah Erickson is barely out of college. But what she lacks in years, she makes up for in experience and strong work ethic. Erickson became the head women’s hockey coach at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., this summer and is very close in age to players on her roster. The former Gophers women’s hockey player graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2012 after a successful four-year career that ended with a national title.
At the halfway point in last year’s season, the Gophers were 20-0-0. This year, they’re 19-1-0 —second-best in the team’s history. That’s an accomplishment in itself, but it’s even more impressive considering the team lost an impactful group of players, including three All-Americans, to graduation and the U.S. national team.
Gophers head coach Brad Frost has been toying with his lines lately, trying to find the best combinations of forwards. “We have this motto where ‘If it’s not broken, keep fixing it so it doesn’t break,’ so that was the whole deal with changing the lines up,” freshman forward Dani Cameranesi said. A constant that hasn’t changed is the combination of Cameranesi and senior forward Kelly Terry. The two played with freshman forward Kate Schipper earlier in the year and have been playing with senior forward Bethany Brausen lately.
Minnesota head coach Brad Frost has had the opportunity to play with his line combinations the past couple of weekends. So far, so good. The Gophers swept Princeton this weekend with 6-0 and 9-1 victories. The new lines created plenty of scoring opportunities, and Minnesota capitalized throughout the series. The Gophers fired 101 shots on goal in just two games.
The Gophers peppered Yale with 26 first-period shots Saturday and then came out and took 25 shots in the first period the next day. In both games, the team took 3-0 leads into the first intermission. The first period has been a big focus for the Gophers lately. The team gave up three first-period goals in its 3-2 loss to North Dakota on Nov. 17, and head coach Brad Frost said that sunk his team.
The Gophers rebounded from their first loss in 62 games last weekend with a dominating series sweep this weekend at Yale. Minnesota outshot the Bulldogs 109-38 in the series en route to 5-1 and 4-1 wins. Gophers junior forward Meghan Lorence said last weekend’s loss had been haunting the team. “We just wanted to prove that we weren’t going to let that get us down and kind of took it to Yale out of frustration,” Lorence said.
The Gophers went into the NCAA championships with hopes of a top-15 finish. They missed that Saturday with a 20th-place team finish in the final race of the season. Minnesota placed five runners in the top 135, which head coach Sarah Hopkins said was “really, really, really solid.” “If you had told me that [before the race], I would have expected that to result in a top-15 finish,” Hopkins said. Providence won the team title, tallying 141 points. The Gophers finished in 20th place with 406 team points, which was just 84 points from 11th place.
The Gophers will line up at the NCAA championships for the ninth year in a row Saturday. That’s a testament to the way longtime head coach Gary Wilson and his successor, current head coach Sarah Hopkins, have built the program. In college sports, where athletes come and go every four to five years, the feat is even more impressive. “With collegiate kids … anytime a streak goes longer than four years, I think it [says] a lot about the foundation of the program,” Hopkins said.
Hockey players are notoriously superstitious, and the Gophers women’s hockey team is no exception. Senior forward Sarah Davis said the team is “borderline crazy” with its superstitions. “If anyone from the outside saw what we had to do before every game, we’d all be in a mental institution,” Davis said. “I’m sure of it.” She said she’s always been superstitious, but it went to a whole new level when she got to college with game-day superstitions that start even before she gets to the rink.