WCHA tournament play begins Friday

No. 2 Minnesota will host St. Cloud State in a best-of-three series.

Samuel Gordon

 

Domination, evisceration and blowout are all appropriate words to describe Minnesota’s previous meetings with St. Cloud State.

The Gophers have laid the smackdown on the Huskies all four times the teams have met this season. They’ve outscored SCSU 29-1 collectively.

No. 2 Minnesota (27-5-2, 21-5-2 WCHA) will host the Huskies in the first round of the league’s playoffs, which begin Friday. Minnesota is the tournament’s second seed, behind nationally ranked No. 1 Wisconsin.

“It’s a start of a new season for both St. Cloud and us and every other team,” Gophers head coach Brad Frost said.

“The key is not making a bigger deal out of the games than we normally do.”

The first round of the eight-team tournament features a best-of-three format, which has been in place since the 2005-06 season.

Since then, Minnesota has not needed a third game to close out any first-round opponent.

Still, senior defenseman Anne Schleper said she feels the setup is good for the conference as a whole.

“Luckily we haven’t had to go in a third game with my career here, but I think it’s good with some of those closer games,” she said.

 “You really will be able to see the true competition and who will come out on top.”

The Gophers have made SCSU (5-27-2, 4-24-0 WCHA) their proverbial punching bag throughout the years, and Schleper said she expects Minnesota to take care of business again this weekend.

“I think,” she said, “you have to have high expectations for yourself. Even looking back again, you can’t pass up what you’ve done.

“You just have to take every opportunity you can and take it to them — it’s playoffs now.”

Though Minnesota has a realistic shot at winning the national championship, Frost said his players are focused on claiming the WCHA tournament crown first, since the regular season title eluded them.

“[Winning the tournament] is one of three goals that we have every year,” he said.

 “We didn’t get the WCHA regular season [championship]. Now our sights are focused on the WCHA tournament, and we’ll worry about the rest after that.”

Freshman forward Rachael Bona added, “Everyone’s pretty excited. This is what you work for all season long, and it’s exciting for it to finally be here.”