Earlier in the season, the Gophers womenâÄôs hockey team had trouble finding consistency on the road in WCHA play. Minnesota, which is undefeated at home, split road series with Wisconsin, Bemidji State, North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth.
But after picking up sweeps at Minnesota State and St. Cloud State in successive weekends, the No. 2 Gophers have found harmony away from home. ThatâÄôs something theyâÄôll hope to take to Columbus when they square off with Ohio State in their final road series of the season.
âÄúThis past weekend I thought we played really well and hard and consistent for 120 minutes of hockey,âÄù head coach Brad Frost said. âÄúThatâÄôs something weâÄôve struggled with just on the road.âÄù
Frost also expressed a degree of relief in the conclusion of the road schedule.
âÄúI think the biggest thing is that itâÄôs showing that itâÄôs the end of the year. WeâÄôre in an important time, needing to continue to win some hockey games,âÄù he said. âÄúIf all goes well in the playoffs, weâÄôre going to be on the road anyways.âÄù
Unlike the last two weekends, however, Minnesota (24-4-2, 18-4-2 WCHA) will have to fly âÄî for just the second time this season âÄî 760 miles to Ohio StateâÄôs campus.
âÄúSometimes it takes a lot of energy out of your body when youâÄôre taking a lot of time to fly to places,âÄù defender Baylee Gillanders said. âÄúWeâÄôre flying out Thursday so then we can get our legs ready for FridayâÄôs game.âÄù
Then, theyâÄôll tango with the Buckeyes, who are fighting for playoff positioning in the WCHA Tournament.
Ohio StateâÄôs 38 points (15-11-4, 12-11-1 WCHA) have it tied for fourth in the conference with Minnesota-Duluth.
The two teams did battle last weekend and came out with a split. Buckeyes star forward Natalie Spooner, one of the top goal-scorers in the conference, found the net three times and accounted for six of her teamâÄôs points.
âÄúWhenever sheâÄôs on the ice, youâÄôve got to be aware of her and her whereabouts,âÄù Gillanders said. âÄúIf she gets the puck, sheâÄôs going to get chances. ItâÄôs better if you always know where she is so you can shut her down.âÄù
The Gophers swept Ohio State earlier in the year, and with more stellar play as of late, they have virtually locked up the No. 2 seed. The only way Minnesota could drop a place in the standings is if it lost the rest of its games and North Dakota won out.
The Gophers have suffered just one loss since Dec. 10 and will be looking for their third straight sweep.
Despite all that, theyâÄôre still trailing No. 1 Wisconsin by six points, and the Badgers have a date with conference cellar dweller St. Cloud State this weekend.
Gophers forward Stephanie Anderson credited the teamâÄôs success to its improved chemistry and said that Minnesota players âÄúare always doing something together off the ice.âÄù
This weekend, theyâÄôll be back on the ice, and Frost expects their opponent to put up a better fight this time around.
âÄúTheyâÄôre a very tough beat at home. âÄ¦ TheyâÄôve improved throughout the year,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs going to be very tough there.âÄù
Frost has made a habit this season of talking up bad teams before laying the hurt on them.