There was a business-like atmosphere surrounding Minnesota’s top-ranked women’s hockey team this week.
The Gophers worked on fine-tuning some of their systems during practice. Special teams, forechecking and defensive-zone play received the most attention.
Minnesota (21-4-1, 14-3-1 WCHA) hits the road for a two-game set against Ohio State (14-10-2, 10-9-1) this weekend and the Gophers are taking a simple approach to the series that starts up front.
“I would like to see us generate more offense than we did against Wisconsin,” Minnesota women’s hockey coach Laura Halldorson said. “(And) get back to our second game against Dartmouth where a lot of people contributed offensively and we had real balanced scoring.”
Minnesota also wants to focus on taking control in the first 20 minutes of play.
The Gophers are 17-0-1 this season when leading after the first period and 1-2-0 when trailing after the opening stanza.
“(We want to) come out strong at the beginning of the period and set the tone for the game and go from there,” Minnesota freshman forward Maggie Souba said. “Scoring right away is the best way. Put it in their heads that they don’t have a chance and get a couple early on them and get the wind out of their sails.”
The Buckeyes have that same goal in mind for the weekend. Ohio State hopes to build on a solid start to the series to upset the Gophers.
But the Buckeyes have a much longer list of objectives to take care of in their preparations for the series.
Ohio State wants to focus on controlling Krissy Wendell. Minnesota’s sophomore forward has tallied 15 points in six career games against Ohio State, including a four-goal performance in the first game of the season.
“She’s an outstanding player,” Ohio State women’s hockey coach Jackie Barto said. “Our goal is to not give her too many opportunities. We want to try to keep her to the outside and make her take her shots from the perimeter.”
Besides containing Wendell, Ohio State hopes to get some solid play between the pipes. The Buckeyes know they will have to rely on strong goaltending to thwart the Gophers attack.
“I think anytime you face Minnesota your goalie is going to have to make some big saves,” Barto said.
In this season’s opening series Minnesota swept the Buckeyes, outscoring Ohio State 13-3. The Gophers made a living in the slot area posting 12 of their goals between the circles.
The Buckeyes had a hard time containing the Gophers’ speed during the last meeting between the two teams.
“They’re a very quick team,” Barto said. “We gave them too much time and space.”
Minnesota has been able to distance itself from Ohio State winning the last 11 games against the Buckeyes. The Gophers want to keep that momentum this weekend.
“At this point we want to continue to build on the past so when the playoffs come around we’re peaking at the right time,” Halldorson said. “We’ve played well as of late and we want to keep that going.”