Once atop the WCHA, a struggling Gophers and Bulldogs meet in rivalry game

Both teams are outside the top five in the NCAA rankings.

Redshirt junior goalkeeper Sidney Peters defends the goal from the Bulldogs on Feb. 4, 2017 at Ridder Arena.

Courtney Deutz, Daily File Photo

Redshirt junior goalkeeper Sidney Peters defends the goal from the Bulldogs on Feb. 4, 2017 at Ridder Arena.

by Max Biegert

A storied rivalry will be renewed for the 20th season this coming weekend when two programs that have combined for 12 national championships meet in Duluth. 

The No. 7 Gophers travel north to take on the No. 8 University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Since 1997, when they first began their programs, the Gophers have 600 program wins, while Duluth has 423. Both teams come into the series having suffered losses. Minnesota comes in with record of 3-2-1, while Duluth comes into the game with a record of 2-4-0. 

“These games are a lot of fun, I think both teams bring the best out of one another,” said head coach Brad Frost. “You have to play well to beat Duluth and they know they have to play really well to beat us.”

Both teams played Ohio State and only the Gophers got a point from them after they lost in a shootout a few weeks ago. Each team is still trying to figure out their own identity, Frost said. 

“Last weekend we took a step in the right direction. We are a team that is still learning and growing and finding things out,” Frost said. “We are finding our identity every weekend and [Duluth] is another step in that direction.”

Sydney Baldwin led the Gophers this past weekend against Bemidji State, totaling four points, which included an overtime game winner this past Saturday. Her efforts earned her the WCHA offensive player of the week award as a defensemen. 

She leads the NCAA is points scored by a defenseman as well as leading the Gophers in points. The senior captain, along with the rest of the Gophers, look to build on the two wins they picked up on the road in Bemidji and try to steal a few more points this weekend. 

“I think this series is really important coming off of two wins, we just want to keep propelling forward, keep momentum going, but for them, it is an opportunity to get some points as well,” Baldwin said. “For our team, we need to keep moving forward and that is what this weekend is for us.”

The Gophers come into the weekend ranked seventh in the country and Duluth enters the weekend eighth. This series will have serious implications as to who comes out on top of the WCHA and gets that first round bye.

“The Duluth series is so special because they are a very skilled team, but also hard working and they test our work ethic,” said senior goaltender Sidney Peters. “These games turn into street hockey and it comes down to who makes the not-so-glamourous plays.”

Frost and the rest of the Gophers will look to add to their two game win streak. Duluth trails Minnesota by four points in the standings, while Minnesota trails Ohio State by four points. It’s early, but Frost knows how important this series is coming up. 

“Every point right now is critical, especially with only seven teams in our league,” Frost said. “I imagine they will be great games here this weekend, every point is critical in every series.” 

Drew Cove contributed to this report.