Gophers to play against familiar face

Minnesota will play Ohio State and faces a former assistant

Junior forward Kelly Pannek skates against the Lindenwood Lions on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 at Ridder Arena.

Chelsea Gortmaker, Daily File Photo

Junior forward Kelly Pannek skates against the Lindenwood Lions on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 at Ridder Arena.

Emily Polglaze

Minnesota will travel to new territory this weekend, but one familiar face will be there — this time on the opposing bench.

The Gophers will go up against Ohio State this weekend where former Minnesota assistant Nadine Muzerall recently took the helm as head coach.

“I’ve never experienced it before, but it’ll be a lot of fun,” said Gophers head coach Brad Frost. “[Muzerall] has earned the right to be the head coach there, and so far they’re doing a really good job. I would imagine that their team will come out with a lot of jump, and she’ll have them ready to play.”

Ohio State’s former head coach, Jenny Potter, was fired in August for violating various NCAA rules during her tenure.

When the spot opened, Muzerall, a former Minnesota standout herself, left her assistant coaching position of five years to take the reigns in Columbus.

The Buckeyes (3-2-1, 1-2-1 WCHA) have gotten out to a solid start with Muzerall in charge.

The team split a series with Bemidji State last weekend, like Minnesota, but did play to a tie with No. 1 Wisconsin on Oct. 8, though it ended in a shootout loss.

“It’s a coach that we’re very familiar with, and I think their results have shown how much they want to play for her,” said junior forward Kelly Pannek. “So going into this weekend, we have to be ready for a battle and know that they’re going to give us two really good games.”

The Gophers are ranked No. 2 in the nation but have already taken a loss this season. This time last year, they were 9-0.

Minnesota (5-1-0, 3-1-0 WCHA) swept No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, but both were one-goal games, and one victory came in overtime.

The Gophers are finding their rhythm in some respects. The power-play was successful last weekend with four goals, and their penalty kill was 9-11 in the two games.

In addition to special team success, the team is starting to find some consistency in lines as the season presses on.

I was really happy with how we played Saturday. Though we didn’t get the lead, we started out quickly,” Frost said. “We were applying a lot of pressure, winning races, winning battles, and those are things we want to do for 60 minutes, and if we do those things, we’re going to win a lot of hockey games.”

The Gophers are riding a 40-game victory streak against the Buckeyes, which included six victories last year.

A sweep on the road would be extra special for the team, as its head coach is approaching an important milestone.

Frost is currently 298-46-22 in his all-time record at Minnesota, and two victories would put him over the 300 mark.

Frost was modest about the possibility, saying that many coaches could be approaching their 400th or 500th victory and that it’s more of a testament to his staff and players than anything else.

His team, though, gives him a bit more credit.“Anytime you can sweep a series, it’s really fun, and when your coach can have a milestone like that, it’s huge,” Pannek said. “He won’t make a big deal out of it … but he deserves it. He’s awesome, and he’s a great coach to play for.”