The goal: 6-straight and Final Faceoff

Minnesota was a perfect 4-0 against Ohio State this season, and has never been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Dane Mizutani

ItâÄôs always a challenge to beat a team five times in a row, but when the third-ranked Gophers open up the WCHA playoffs this weekend against Ohio State, they will be looking to do just that.

Minnesota (23-8-2, 18-8-2 WCHA) has had the BuckeyesâÄô number this season, winning all four meetings up to this point. Its latest victory came in the form of an 8-1 shellacking in Columbus a little more than a month ago.

All previous games aside, the start of the WCHA playoffs wipes each teamâÄôs slate clean, and every game becomes a must-win.

âÄúBottom line is itâÄôs the playoffs, and anything can happen so we have to come out prepared,âÄù assistant coach Natalie Darwitz said. âÄúI think we can take some momentum from the 8-1 victory, but we still need to come out playing our style of hockey.âÄù

Dominating the Buckeyes (14-17-3, 8-17-3) this season has given the Gophers some confidence heading into this weekendâÄôs series. But the team knows these recent victories are not something they can take for granted.

âÄúWe know that we canâÄôt take [Ohio State] lightly, because if we donâÄôt play our best they can beat us,âÄù freshman Amanda Kessel said.

The BuckeyesâÄô resilience is something MinnesotaâÄôs returning players are quite familiar with.

The teams squared off in a double overtime affair in the semifinal game of the WCHA Final Faceoff last March.

The Gophers triumphed in the thriller with a 5-4 victory to reach the championship game.

Senior captain Terra Rasmussen said Minnesota will be looking to make quick work of the Buckeyes this time around and said she does not anticipate a repeat of last yearâÄôs double overtime drama.

âÄúI donâÄôt think we will let it happen again,âÄù Rasmussen said. âÄúWeâÄôre looking at this weekend and we want to get it done in two games. Not just for the sake of not having a third game, but also to prove a point to everyone else that we can get by these teams quickly.âÄù

Attacking early in the game will be essential to the GophersâÄô success this weekend, and if they can score early and often it could make all the difference.

This has been a focus for the team all season long, and it will remain constant throughout the playoffs.

âÄúI think anytime âÄî especially in the playoffs âÄî you can get on a team in the first period and provide yourself a little cushion, it is always a good thing,âÄù Darwitz said. âÄúIf we can get a couple goals on them quick and kind of deflate their confidence it can only be good for us.âÄù

This upcoming series at Ridder Arena will be the start of what Minnesota hopes to be a championship push.

The Gophers are 10-0 all time in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and know this weekend is a chance to gain respect.

âÄúI think we have what it takes to win, but putting all the pieces together is what we will have to do,âÄù Rasmussen said. âÄúThis weekend is a good way to prove it.âÄù