Win or go home: No. 3 Minnesota hosts Clarkson for only 2nd time

The Gophers host the NCAA quarterfinal matchup Saturday at 4 p.m.

Gophers freshman forward Becky Kortum puts the puck in the net Saturday at the WHCA Final Faceoff against Ohio State University.

Marija Majerle

Gophers freshman forward Becky Kortum puts the puck in the net Saturday at the WHCA Final Faceoff against Ohio State University.

John Hageman

The No. 2 Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey team will face a familiar foe in the first game of the NCAA Tournament, and the squad is hoping for familiar results. After falling 3-2 to Minnesota-Duluth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship game Sunday, the Gophers will face Clarkson at 4 p.m. Saturday in a quarterfinal game at Ridder Arena. The Gophers faced the Golden Knights for the first time in history Nov. 27 in a battle between the then-No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the land. The Gophers would go on to win 4-0 and come back the next night with another shutout, 2-0. Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said it was the best series the team had played all year. âÄúI think that was the highlight of our year,âÄù Frost said. âÄúWeâÄôre hopeful âĦ to play as best we can and see what happens.âÄù Senior Alexandra Zebro said that the teamâÄôs familiarity with Clarkson is not necessarily a huge advantage, considering how long ago the sweep took place. âÄúWe know what they have, and we know that teamâÄôs progress very well over the season,âÄù Zebro said. âÄúWe need to elevate our game and not take anything for granted. We are going to come into this game to dominate.âÄù While the Gophers attempt to move past Clarkson in the NCAA quarterfinal match, their in-state rival Minnesota-Duluth will look to beat New Hampshire . Should the Gophers and the Bulldogs win this weekend, they will meet March 19 at Ridder Arena for the semifinal game of the Frozen Four. Although the players are focused on their upcoming game, there is little doubt they would like an opportunity to avenge their loss in WCHA title game. âÄúItâÄôs in the back of our minds,âÄù Jaimie Horton said . âÄúIf we blow this one, we wonâÄôt get that chance.âÄù SundayâÄôs game with the Bulldogs started off with the Gophers taking three penalties in the first two minutes and failing to put a shot on goal for the first 12 minutes. The high amount of penalties to start off the game may have been attributed to the high level of emotion that comes with playing a rival, and the referees might have been trying to keep the game under control early. The prior series between the Gophers and Bulldogs saw them combine for 22 penalties in a 3-0 Minnesota loss, and the Saturday game ended with junior Emily West suffering a concussion in what Frost described as âÄúthe incident.âÄù âÄúYou knew going into the game that they were going to be watching things a little more closely,âÄù junior Terra Rasmussen said. âÄúWe didnâÄôt think we were going to have three girls in the box right off the bat.âÄù Rasmussen added that while the Gophers found themselves down 2-0 early due in part to the penalties, they were able to fight their way back. This resiliency has been teamâÄôs identity as of late. After falling in an overtime heartbreaker to Wisconsin, they came back from a 2-1 third-period deficit in the final regular season game of the season the very next night. In the first round of the WCHA playoffs, the Gophers needed a 4-3 triple-overtime victory to move past the Mavericks and a 5-4 double-overtime victory against Ohio State on Saturday in the semifinals . âÄúPlaying a long game before, obviously, there should be some tiredness there,âÄù Zebro said . âÄúWe really had the mindset to fight through it.âÄù Clarkson comes into SaturdayâÄôs matchup on the heels of a 4-3 overtime loss to Cornell in the Eastern College Athletic Conference title game . Coming from a tough league like the ECAC, the only conference to boast three NCAA Tournament participants, Clarkson should be a formidable opponent standing in the way of a rematch with Minnesota-Duluth. But Frost is confident his team can carry over some of its recent success into the weekend. âÄúWe have our hands full this weekend,âÄù Frost said. âÄúI think the big thing is just no regrets. Last thing we want to do is hold anything back in a one-game shot and wish you would have done something different.âÄù For seniors like Horton, a loss Saturday would mean the end of her Gophers career. âÄúIt hasnâÄôt really crossed my mind,âÄù Horton said. âÄúWeâÄôre meant to make it to the Frozen Four because weâÄôre hosting it … we believe itâÄôs meant to be.âÄù