No. 1 Gophers travel to No. 2 Dartmouth

This weekend’s series includes the only two undefeated teams left in the nation.

by Bridget Haeg

Every other time Minnesota’s women’s hockey team has embarked on a series this season, it had done so with the confidence of well-played games the weekend before.

But now, heading into its third away series against a ranked opponent in as many weeks, the top-ranked Gophers face the task of picking themselves up.

After what Minnesota (14-0-2, 12-0-2 WCHA) called disappointing, subpar play in the weekend’s win and tie with Wisconsin, it heads to Hanover, N.H., to face No. 2 Dartmouth (10-0-0, 6-0-0 ECAC) in a relatively unfamiliar state of mind.

“I think it should be more motivating for our players to get out there and prove what they can do,” assistant coach Brad Frost said. “There’s a lot of pride on the line to see who’s the better team.”

Make that two undefeated records on the line, too. Saturday and Sunday’s series at Thompson Arena features the sole remaining unbeaten teams in Division I.

“Hopefully, we can learn from (last) weekend,” junior forward Natalie Darwitz said, “because we did not play our best hockey.”

Minnesota came close to losing its perfect record over the weekend against Wisconsin, winning the first game 2-0 but then surrendering three Badgers goals in Sunday’s game that sent the contest into a scoreless overtime.

But the box score masked perhaps the most frustrating part of the weekend for Minnesota.

The Gophers ended up outshooting the Badgers 62-39 in the two games but scoring only five total goals.

“We weren’t thinking defense in their end at all,” freshman forward Bobbi Ross said. “Maybe our 39 shots (in Sunday’s game) tells us something, almost a bad thing, that we were thinking way too offensively.”

That will have to change this weekend if Minnesota, which has been outscored 15-4 and is 0-3 at Thompson Arena, hopes to sweep Dartmouth.

Dartmouth is averaging 1.50 goals allowed per game – closely rivaling Minnesota (1.06) – and the Green threaten to overtake the Gophers’ top-ranked offense (5.63 goals per game) this weekend, as its 52 goals in 10 games registers second in the country.

Unlike Minnesota, which after this weekend will have played seven of its last eight games against top-five teams, Dartmouth has yet to take on any team ranked higher than sixth.

But the Gophers refuse to attribute any excuses to road-weariness or fatigue.

“We can’t go into this weekend with any regrets because of how hard we did or didn’t work,” Frost said.

And after watching numerous game clips of the weekend’s performance, the Gophers said the whole team is aware of the collective mistakes made.

“At times, we didn’t play as hard as we could,” freshman forward Liz Palkie said. “But, I think, for being the best team in the nation, we need to play as hard as we can all the time.”