No. 2 Minn. travels to No. 9 Harvard

The Gophers look to continue their strong record against ranked opponents.

by John Hageman

The No. 2 Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey team is no stranger to big wins this year and will look to earn two more this weekend at No. 9 Harvard. It was almost a year ago this weekend when the Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey team last faced the Crimson, when the Gophers claimed the sweep at Ridder Arena. Minnesota is 8-4-0 all-time against Harvard . Minnesota defeated Harvard in back-to-back years in the NCAA Championship in 2004 and 2005 when current Minnesota head coach Brad Frost was an assistant for the Gophers. After years of watching the Crimson, Frost said his squad and Harvard have similar playing styles. âÄúI think that they are going to be very fast-paced games âĦ just like last year when we played them; a bounce one way is probably going to determine it,âÄù he said. The Crimson (6-3-1) have been coached by Katey Stone for the past 15 years. Stone is the third Division I womenâÄôs hockey coach to reach 300 wins. Stone also led the program to its 500th win on Nov. 7 this season with a victory over St. Lawrence. Once again, Minnesota (13-2-1) will be up against one of the best goalies in the nation in senior Christina Kessler, whose .940 save percentage is fourth in the country. Senior captain Brittany Francis , who played with Kessler on the Toronto Aeros, said jumping on the rebounds will be especially important in order to have success against the goaltender. Last weekend, the Gophers came away with a couple of statement victories over then-No.3 Clarkson at Ridder Arena . Junior captain Emily West said the team was happy with the wins but must stay focused on the weeks ahead. âÄúWeâÄôre happy with what we did and trying to take what we did and transfer it into this next weekend with Harvard,âÄù West said. The Gophers did not allow a goal on the weekend, thanks in large part to freshman goalie Noora Räty, who was named the Western College Hockey Association defensive player of the week. This weekendâÄôs series against the Crimson marks the last two games that Minnesota will face a non-conference opponent (Harvard is in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Association) this year. The Gophers are 4-0 against non-conference opponents so far and 4-2 against ranked opponents. As it stands now, Harvard would be on the outside looking in on the NCAA regional tournament, making this weekendâÄôs series especially important for the Crimson. âÄúAnytime they can beat a team thatâÄôs in the top 10 or a team thatâÄôs ahead of them, itâÄôs only going to help them come the end of the year,âÄù Frost said. The weekend series will begin in Cambridge, Mass., at 7 p.m. on Friday and will conclude at 4 p.m. Saturday .