Gophers head into Harvard series in much different shape this season

Freshmen forward Kelly Terry plays against Wisconsin November 6 at Ridder Arena.

Erin Westover, Daily File Photo

Freshmen forward Kelly Terry plays against Wisconsin November 6 at Ridder Arena.

Nate Gotlieb

A season ago, a surging Gophers womenâÄôs hockey team traveled to Harvard with a 13-2-1 record, ranked second in the nation and, with the exception of a few minor injuries, fully healthy.

What a difference a season can make.

This season, the Gophers enter the Harvard series sitting at 8-5-0 and in fourth place in the WCHA. Returning leading scorer Emily West, preseason favorite for WCHA rookie of the year Amanda Kessel and 2008-09 WCHA goaltending champion Alyssa Grogan have all missed time due to injuries and could miss this weekendâÄôs series against Harvard.

âÄúItâÄôs been kind of like a hospital ward here,âÄù head coach Brad Frost said.

ThatâÄôs not to say the Gophers are panicking just yet.

With the three key contributors out, the Gophers kept their cool last weekend against a Minnesota State team that had won four games in a row, holding the Mavericks scoreless until the third period Saturday.

Goalie Noora Raty and the defense held strong as Sarah Erickson provided the only goal in a win Friday night. The line of Sarah Davis, Kelly Terry and Becky Kortum ignited the GophersâÄô offense in a 6-2 win Saturday.

Davis, Terry and Kortum combined for eight points on the game, including four of the teamâÄôs six goals.

âÄúWe did a really good job crashing the net,âÄù Terry said. âÄúIn the past, we would miss an opportunity to shoot and try and that one extra pass or that one extra move, but that game, we kind of took the shot, crashed the net, and it worked out well for us.âÄù

The sweep vaulted the Gophers into fourth place in the WCHA and gave the team momentum going forward, Frost said.

âÄúWe needed a couple wins,âÄù he said. âÄúTo go into their place and beat them twice was huge for us.âÄù

However, the Gophers have to be weary.

They have struggled to follow up their breakout offensive performances this year. When the Gophers have scored more than five goals this season, they havenâÄôt scored more than three in the next. On top of that, Harvard held the Gophers scoreless in both of last seasonâÄôs matchups.

Frost doesnâÄôt plan on changing the game plan much.

âÄúWeâÄôll do the exact same things that weâÄôve been trying to do, and thatâÄôs getting the puck to the net and bodies to the net and making good decisions,âÄù Frost said.

The Gophers know this weekend can bolster their nonconference résumé.

They swept No. 3 Clarkson to begin the season, and a sweep this weekend would give them a 5-0 record against nonconference opponents, a strong mark if they are an at-large candidate for the NCAA tournament in March.

The Gophers hope to continue their past success against Harvard. They are 8-5-1 all-time against the Crimson, including wins in the 2004 and 2005 NCAA championship games.

Harvard is a traditional power in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, where it went 13-6-3 in the league last season and has made eight NCAA tournament appearances in the past 10 seasons.

Harvard appears poised for another run this season. At 4-2-2, it is tied for second place in the ECAC and has skirted with the national rankings all season.

âÄúItâÄôs going to take more than one goal, thatâÄôs for sure,âÄù Erickson said. âÄúThis is a hard working team; itâÄôs a great systems team. TheyâÄôre going to go out there and work their butts off. So weâÄôre going to have to go out there and do the same.âÄù