Sitting at No. 1, Minnesota pledges not to be caught off guard

The Gophers women’s hockey team said they will continue to work hard despite facing a weaker opponent.

According to the Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey team, nothing can change the way they prepare for an opponent. Not first place in the league. Not the top honors of both national polls. Not a sub-par competitor. Just because their opponent is at .500, sophomore Emily West said the Gophers arenâÄôt going into this weekend series any different than they did against Wisconsin. âÄúWeâÄôre going into all of our games from now on with the mentality that every game is just as important as the last one,âÄù she said. âÄúThose points are going to be just as hard to earn as the [ones against Wisconsin] were.âÄù No.1 Minnesota (24-3-3 overall, 19-2-3-2 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) takes on North Dakota (13-13-4, 9-12-3 ) at 6:07p.m. tonight and 4:07p.m. Saturday, with both games being played at Ridder Arena. Last weekend, the Gophers beat and tied Wisconsin to move atop the WCHA standings by one point with four games left in the season; Minnesota-Duluth sits in third place and trails the Gophers by 10 points. That guarantees Minnesota either the No. 1 or No. 2 spot within the WCHA final standings and the ability to host one of the first-round playoffs, starting Feb. 27. If the playoffs began now, Minnesota would host Bemidji State. But the Gophers arenâÄôt looking past this weekendâÄôs series. First-year Alyssa Grogan said there are differences between Wisconsin and North Dakota but that doesnâÄôt change the way the Gophers will prepare. âÄúThe pace will probably be a little different but we canâÄôt take them any lighter than we did Wisconsin,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs just as important, if not more important, than the series with Wisconsin was.âÄù The recent jump to first place in the league and both national polls is something the Gophers are aware of, but not focusing on. West said there is a bit of a push with four games left in the season but Minnesota will continue to do what they have been doing. âÄúThere is no one in [the locker] room that thinks âÄòOh, now we are number one we can sit back,âÄôâÄù she said. âÄúIf anything, it pushes us further in knowing that there might be a little bit of a target on our backs and we have to work that much harder.âÄù According to coach Brad Frost the coaching staff has stressed taking things one game at a time, one practice at a time and getting better each day. âÄúItâÄôs the same it has been for the last couple weeks: get better, get better, get better,âÄù Frost said. âÄúThis is the time of the year when you want to be playing your best hockey and itâÄôs not a time to start relaxing at all.âÄù This weekend, Frost said he wonâÄôt be experimenting with his systems since Minnesota has gotten into a groove. âÄúI donâÄôt know if you ever perfect your systems but we certainly want to be proficient and efficient in what we are doing,âÄù he said.