Women’s hockey pregame report: (3) Gophers vs. (2) Minnesota-Duluth

by John Hageman

 Fate would not have it any other way. 

The WCHA regular season co-champions will face off here today at Ridder Arena for the WCHA playoff championship. These are two teams that have been even in every sense of the word, with the Bulldogs getting the No. 1 seed in the tournament because they have more conference wins. Not only that, but the teams split their season series by scores of 3-1 and 3-0 each time. Not to mention they are two of the biggest rivals in the country.

Minnesota-Duluth comes into today’s matchup as one of the hottest teams in the country, winning their last 14 out of 15. Their last win came yesterday in the semifinal game against WCHA-tournament newcomer Bemidji State 7-3. The Gophers have had a noticeably different end to their season, finishing the regular season 1-4-1.

It will be interesting to see how the Gophers come out of the gate, with their double-overtime game with Ohio State ending just 17 hours ago. Last weekend, they were able to play a triple-overtime game and go home the next day. This is not so today.

The last time these two teams met, Minnesota-Duluth won with a 3-0 victory. The Gophers let their emotions get the best of them during that game after leading scorer and team captain Emily West was crosschecked in what Minnesota head coach Brad Frost referred to as "the incident" and ended up in the hospital with a concussion. Minnesota went on to start taking some penalties out of frustration. We’ll see how they curb their emotions today.

As it stands right now, this game means the difference between a No. 2 or No.3 seed in the NCAA tournament for the Gophers. Either way, they will play the rest of their season at Ridder Arena. Other than seeding implications, pride and a right to hang a banner as WCHA champions is on the line here today.

The puck is set to drop here at 12:07 p.m. Follow my live blog of all the action.