Momentum with Gophers for Ohio State series

Zach Eisendrath

Coming off what coach Laura Halldorson and junior captain Andrea Nichols both agree was the best win of the season, Minnesota’s women’s hockey team will look to keep its momentum going this weekend.

The Gophers travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on Western Collegiate Hockey Association foe Ohio State (10-10-4, 7-9-2 WCHA).

The two-game set starts tonight at 7 p.m. and concludes Saturday at 4 p.m. at OSU Ice Rink.

The fourth-ranked Gophers (16-7-1, 11-6-1 WCHA) head into the weekend with newfound confidence after beating Duluth 2-0 Saturday.

Nichols said a lot has changed surrounding the team since the big win.

“We are having a lot more fun in practice,” she said. “We’re a little more focused. Having that boost of confidence makes things a little more fun. We want to be out there a little more.”

Although pleased with the way last weekend ended, Halldorson said it won’t mean much without a strong performance against the Buckeyes.

“I just think that it was important for us to, on the road, beat one of the best teams in the country,” Halldorson said. “However you look at that, that’s going to give us confidence.

“But it won’t be lasting confidence if we don’t take care of business this weekend.”

After such a victory, a letdown could be in store. But Nichols said the Gophers understand the challenge at hand.

“Ohio State always puts up a good fight,” Nichols said. “Last weekend they took (No. 1) Wisconsin to overtime so we’re looking at going into a good couple games (this) weekend. We know that we have to come ready to play.”

Minnesota knows firsthand what it’s up against. Earlier this season ” when the Buckeyes visited Ridder Arena in November ” Ohio State shocked the Gophers 2-1 in overtime.

Minnesota will be looking for revenge.

“It’s in the back of our minds,” Nichols said.

Like always, Halldorson said she expected another nail-biting weekend in the WCHA.

“Ohio State has always been known for working hard and making it hard for some of the top teams in our league,” she said. “They’re the type of team that if you don’t play well against them, you’re going to lose.

“That’s what happened our last time out. I give them credit because they have good players and found a way to win that game. It’s going to be a tough series.”

Darwitz to forgo senior season

Natalie Darwitz, who helped lead the Gophers to back-to-back national championships in 2004 and 2005, announced Wednesday that she will forgo her senior season of eligibility.

Darwitz is with the U.S. Olympic Hockey team, preparing to compete in the 2006 Winter Games.