Gophers battle Clarkson for first time in history

No. 2 Minnesota welcomes the No. 3 Golden Knights for two games.

John Hageman

Two of the top teams in the country will face off this weekend at Ridder Arena as No. 3 Clarkson visits No. 2 Minnesota in the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Coming out of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, Clarkson (12-2-1, 6-1-0 ECAC) is 6-1-1 against ranked opponents this year. Two weekends ago, the Golden Knights suffered their first ECAC loss of the year to No. 6 Cornell. Last weekend, the Gophers earned a sweep over WCHA foe Bemidji State in Minneapolis to improve to 11-2-1 overall and 9-2-1 in the WCHA . The GophersâÄô third line of seniors Kelli Blankenship and Jaimie Horton and junior Terra Rasmussen looked impressive in the sweep, with Blankenship and Rasmussen combining for six points. âÄúI think we were out there having a good time,âÄù Horton said. âÄúWe didnâÄôt look that great in practice that week, and then Friday we went out there and we were just flying around.âÄù Clarkson has shown significant improvement in 2009 and is just four wins shy of its total last year (16). âÄúTheyâÄôve been a team on the rise here over the last few years, and it seems like theyâÄôre finally breaking through,âÄù Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said. The Golden Knights also boasts one of the best goalies in the country in junior Lauren Dahm, who is second in the nation in goals allowed average. Since this is the first meeting in these teamsâÄô history, it may take a period for the two to feel each other out, Frost said, but the Gophers have seen different style teams within their own conference. âÄúI think that with the WCHA teams over the years, weâÄôre really familiar with their style of play,âÄù senior captain Michelle Maunu said. While this may be the biggest challenge the Gophers have faced all year, Frost said they will have to focus on continuing to do what they do best in order to be successful: solid defense. The Minnesota defense has been one of these high points this year, allowing just 26.3 shots on goal per game, 9.6 less than their own. âÄúEveryone knows we have a great goaltender, but we have a good defensive core as well,âÄù Maunu said. âÄúItâÄôs a lot easier for a goalie if your defense is there and backing you up.âÄù This may prove to be a critical weekend for the Gophers, with these games being two of only six non-conference opponents Minnesota faces all year. âÄúCome time for the NCAA tournament and seeding, theyâÄôre going to look back to these games and determine who the better team is,âÄù Frost said. The Gophers will look to prove they are the better team with the weekend series starting Friday at 7:07 p.m. and the second game Saturday at 3:07 p.m.