Minnesota trying to rebound from blowout against OSU

by Zach Eisendrath

One week ago today, Minnesota’s women’s hockey team was riding high.

After an impressive 4-1 victory against Western Collegiate Hockey Association rival and No. 2 Duluth, the Gophers looked in prime position to make a run at the conference title.

But that was last week.

Saturday night, No. 4 Minnesota (6-2-0, 3-1-0 WCHA) looked like a completely different team, falling victim to a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of their in-state adversary. It left many to wonder whether the Gophers are pretenders or contenders.

This weekend, Minnesota plays host to Ohio State at Ridder Arena. The games are set for 7:07 p.m. today and Saturday.

Coach Laura Halldorson has sent a simple message to players after their up-and-down weekend.

“Just try to forget about it; put it in the past,” forward Whitney Graft said. “It’s in the past. Learn from it and move on.”

That’s exactly what Minnesota plans to do when the Gophers play the Buckeyes.

Although Minnesota owns a 24-3-1 all-time advantage over Ohio State (4-3-1, 2-3-1 WCHA), dating back to 1999, the Buckeyes trail the Gophers by only one point in the WCHA standings. Halldorson knows the Buckeyes can’t be taken lightly.

“They’re a team that is hard working and is always a solid,” Halldorson said.

“It’s one of those things where if you don’t play well, they can beat you. So we have to be prepared and come ready to go.”

Still, last weekend was the first time the Gophers have been shut out since February 2002, and the first time ever at Ridder.

However, sophomore forward Graft said she is confident Minnesota can turn things around this weekend.

“Obviously, Saturday was very heartbreaking and not good, but this week we’ll be focused and intense and ready to go,” Graft said.

Despite the team’s struggles Saturday, Halldorson said she was satisfied with the split against the Bulldogs and believes the Gophers have a solid chance at winning the wide-open conference.

“There are still a lot of league games to be played, so we don’t want to look real far down the road, but I think getting a split was a positive for us and an important two points that we earned.”

Duluth leads the conference with 12 points, followed by Wisconsin with eight and Minnesota State with seven. The Gophers are fourth, with six points, but have played only half the amount of conference games (four) as the conference leading Bulldogs (eight). Ohio State has five league points.

“Obviously it would have been nice to get all four,” Halldorson said. “But that was a good team we faced. I think what it does is keep us right in the middle of the pack.”