Defending champion Gophers to begin season ranked No. 1

Betsy Helfand

The Gophers women’s hockey team will begin its 2012-13 season right where it left off.

The defending national champions received all 15 first-place votes in the USCHO.com Division-I Preseason Women’s poll. The Gophers went 34-5-2 last season and defeated Wisconsin 4-2 in the NCAA championship game March 18.

It was their third NCAA championship and first since 2005. The Badgers are ranked second in the poll. Cornell, Boston College and North Dakota round out the top five.

The team was also ranked No. 1 in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine's preseason poll. They received all 19 first-place votes in that poll, which was released Tuesday.

Minnesota graduated three of its top-five scorers in Jen Schoullis, Sarah Erickson and Emily West. But it returns top scorer Amanda Kessel and goalie Noora Raty, the Most Outstanding Player in the 2012 Frozen Four.

The Gophers will begin their season with a two-game set Sept. 28-29 against Colgate at Ridder Arena.