Gophers take on Sioux in season-closing home series

Zach Eisendrath

Minnesota’s women’s hockey team’s last series of the regular season will be anything but meaningless.

With much to be determined in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings, all should be resolved at the conclusion of the weekend.

The fourth-ranked Gophers ‘ who have won five of their past six games ‘ host North Dakota (7-23-2, 3-21-2 WCHA) Saturday and Sunday at Ridder Arena. The puck drops at 3:07 p.m. both days.

Minnesota (22-9-1, 17-8-1 WCHA) sits at third in the conference, trailing in-state rival Duluth (36 points) by one point for the second seed.

However, if the Gophers sweep the Sioux and Minnesota State can steal two points from the Bulldogs, Minnesota will leap into the second spot entering tournament play.

“It’s out of our control, but there still could be a chance that things could change,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “And it’s interesting because there is a race there between two and three (seeds) and a race for six and seven, so we don’t know who we’re going to play first round and none of those four teams (know).

“It will be an interesting weekend to see how the dust settles and figure out who our first-round opponents are for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.”

Sophomore forward Erica McKenzie said the team just needs to worry about itself.

“Obviously, we just need to take care of our business and try to get a sweep from North Dakota here,” she said. “Especially it would be huge going into playoff time.

“We’re playing great now so we don’t want to stumble; we want to just keep going forward. We can’t be hoping for another team to knock them off. We just need to take care of our business and we’ll have control of our destiny,” McKenzie said.

Halldorson said she hopes the lines she sends out onto the ice this weekend will be the ones she rides the rest of the way.

“I think ideally we would like to stick with a lineup here down the stretch,” Halldorson said. “That would be the goal, but I’m not going to rule out the possibility of tweaking it if we think we need to at some point.”