Minnesota travels West on I-94 in search of return to winning ways

Zach Eisendrath

Following a one-week hiatus, Minnesota’s women’s hockey team returns to the ice this weekend when the Gophers travel to Grand Forks, N.D., to take on the Fighting Sioux in a two-game set.

Game times are set for 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Both teams come into the weekend dual having suffered their share of struggles. North Dakota (2-10-2, 0-8-2 WCHA) is winless in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play thus far.

As for fifth-ranked Minnesota (9-5-0, 4-4-0 WCHA), the Gophers still have a bitter taste in their mouth after being swept by fourth-ranked Wisconsin on Nov. 18 and 19 at Ridder Arena.

But, after four consecutive home series, Gophers coach Laura Halldorson said she believes a road trip is just what the team needs to regain its focus.

“I’m looking forward to not only getting our team back on the ice,” Halldorson said, “but I’m excited about getting on the road.

“We had been home for so long, and I think when you are on the road, you really don’t have much of a choice but to focus on hockey because you’re with the team 24 hours a day.”

Halldorson also said she believes the week off has given her team new life.

“It’s always good when you have a break,” she said. “Whenever you have a break, it can be refreshing both physically and mentally,” she said.

Not only does Halldorson hope to pick up the sweep this weekend, she also wants to see improvement in areas that have been lackluster as of late: offense, defense and special teams.

“We just need to get tough around the goal and stronger in front of our opponent’s net and bury the chances that we get.

“(On special teams) we need to take advantage of the power plays that we get and do a better job of killing off our opponent’s power plays,” she said. “We have really struggled doing that lately.”

Like in recent weeks, Halldorson said she once again plans on mixing up lines throughout the weekend.