Gophers get a shot at their own homecoming this weekend

The Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey team knows how to play in a homecoming atmosphere. This weekend the Gophers will play in their third set of homecoming games since starting their season four weeks ago. The only difference is that itâÄôs MinnesotaâÄôs homecoming weekend. After facing Duluth and Wisconsin during their respective homecomings, Minnesota (5-2-1 overall, 4-1-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association ) will play No. 5 St. Cloud St. (4-2-2, 2-2-1 ) in a home-and-home series starting Friday night at 6:07 p.m. at Ridder Arena and then to St. Cloud on Saturday at 7:07 p.m. Even though the No. 2 Gophers will be in St. Cloud on the actual homecoming day, senior Dagney Willey said she is glad to be able to play one game at home. âÄúThereâÄôs a little bit more buzz on campus and stuff like that,âÄù Willey said. âÄúThereâÄôs always a good atmosphere in Ridder.âÄù Sophomore Terra Rasmussen said she likes home-and-home series but thinks itâÄôs nice to have a full weekend at her home rink. âÄúYou can prepare better for two games at home than splitting. You avoid the bus trip,âÄù she said. âÄúAlso, pregame warm-up, we get our own area. ItâÄôs our music.âÄù Even though the St. Cloud visitorâÄôs locker room is large and nice, itâÄôs nice to play at home, Rasmussen said. âÄúItâÄôs nice to be in your own locker room and have your own stuff and not have to pack and unpack and everything like that,âÄù she said. After two tough games against Wisconsin last weekend, Gophers coach Brad Frost said his team is still in a tough part of their schedule and that both offense and defense are important is this weekendâÄôs games. âÄúPreparation has been the same and we are anticipating tough games,âÄù he said. âÄúOur focus is always on winning and playing our best so that the winning takes care of itself.âÄù A strong defense always aids a strong offense, Willey said. âÄúIf you can keep the puck out of the net than you have a better chance of getting the puck in the net,âÄù she said. Rasmussen said the Gophers have to be alert in their defensive zone because St. CloudâÄôs offense is âÄúvery spunky.âÄù The team doesnâÄôt just have to prepare for the games, but for the different sized rinks. Ridder Arena is 200 feet by 85 feet, whereas the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud is an Olympic size 200 feet by 100 feet. Rasmussen said the size changes will be both a disadvantage and an advantage for Minnesota. âÄúOur team is very fast so it can be an advantage there but a disadvantage because St. Cloud plays at home; they are used to their rink size,âÄù she said. âÄúThe cross ice passes are a little more difficult to make. You get tired a lot quicker.âÄù The only way to prepare for the rink change is for the Gophers to be aware of how much wider the NHC is, Rasmussen said. âÄùHopefully, just our hard work that we have shown throughout the past few series will pay off this weekend,âÄù she said.