Players back from Sweden, No. 2 Gophers host UNH

New Hampshire is the first of two remaining nonconference opponents.

by Samuel Gordon

The No. 2 Gophers womenâÄôs hockey team will be back in action for the first time in two weeks this weekend, and a familiar opponent will be coming to town.

The New Hampshire Wildcats (4-6-2), who have faced Minnesota in the NCAA playoffs three times, will travel to Minneapolis for a weekend series with the Gophers.

Minnesota (10-2-0, 8-2-0 WCHA) will take a break from WCHA play the next couple weekends and play its final two nonconference series of the year.

Head coach Brad Frost said the team is excited to get a reprieve from the grueling conference schedule but acknowledged the importance of nonconference games when it comes to postseason play.

âÄúBecause thereâÄôs only six [nonconference games], itâÄôs important that you do really wellin them, because thatâÄôs often times where the seeding takes place at the end of the year,âÄù Frost said.

He added that the week off gave the players a chance to recoup and recharge for the next month of the season heading into the winter break.

âÄúThe season is a long one and itâÄôs a grind even in the first half, so itâÄôs always nice to get a weekend off,âÄù Frost said.

âÄúIt allows the kids to go home and spend some time with friends and family, get a little refreshed and come back for the home stretch of the first half [of the season].âÄù

Not everyone on the team got a chance to take it easy, though.

Three Gophers players represented their respective countries in the Four Nations Cup, an annual four-team hockey tournament between USA, Canada, Sweden and Finland.

Forwards Jen Schoullis and Amanda Kessel represented the United States, and defenseman Mira Jalosuo represented Finland.

Schoullis said that her international experience can help the Gophers in a multitude of ways.

âÄúThe game is a lot faster than the collegiate level,âÄù Schoullis said. âÄúHopefully we can bring the pace of the game and everything back.âÄù

She said she has shifted her attention back to Minnesota and New Hampshire since returning.

The Wildcats have had a rough year up to this point. Winners of their first four games, the Wildcats are winless in their last eight contests, going 0-6-2 during that stretch.

Gophers forward Kelly Terry said that the second, third and fourth lines need to produce more this weekend.

âÄúOur first line has been carrying us a lot,âÄù Terry said. âÄúOur lines have been doing a good job doing their jobs but not putting [the puck in the net]. In a long season like this we need to pick that up.âÄù

The Gophers have a 6-5-3 all-time record against New Hampshire. The Wildcats won the last meeting 5-4 on Oct. 7, 2006.

New Hampshire assistant coach Jamie Wood was an assistant at Minnesota from 2008-10.

âÄúWhen [Coach Wood] went to UNH, we decided to get them on the schedule, knowing that heâÄôs a good person, and they were going to have a good team,âÄù Frost said. âÄúItâÄôll be good to have him back.âÄù