St. Cloud State visits for Minnesota’s celebratory weekend

The Gophers will drop banners and play a Huskies team they are 21-1 against all-time.

Bridget Haeg

With all the fanfare of the 2004 national championship banner-dropping ceremony taking place tonight, it could be easy for Minnesota’s women’s hockey team to get sidetracked.

But as the Gophers host St. Cloud State in a WCHA matchup this weekend at Ridder Arena, they said they can’t let last year’s accomplishments overshadow tonight’s work.

“Our team has been pretty focused on St. Cloud Ö We don’t want to be too distracted by the pregame stuff,” coach Laura Halldorson said.

Though the Gophers hold a 21-1-0 all-time series record versus the Huskies, team members said they don’t expect St. Cloud to hand them a win.

“It’s probably going to be a lot more physical than last weekend (against North Dakota),” Minnesota sophomore defender Lyndsay Wall said.

“It’s going to definitely be a higher-tempo game.”

Last weekend, Minnesota (2-0-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) dominated in its season opener against North Dakota.

It outscored the Sioux 15-1 in the series, with senior forward Kelly Stephens notching a hat trick in game two.

Minnesota will look to continue its winning streak tonight with slightly different lines and a week’s worth of defensive practice.

The Huskies (1-1-0, 1-1-0 WCHA) lineup is facing a more severe overhaul than just a few line changes, with four transfer players and nine rookies on the roster.

“We feel we’re much deeper (compared to last season),” Huskies coach Jason Lesteberg said.

Seeking to improve on last year’s sixth-place WCHA finish, the Huskies got off to a solid start by splitting their opening series with Ohio State.

But they also scored only three goals on the weekend, playing flat during a couple periods, Lesteberg said.

St. Cloud State sophomore goaltender Lauri St. Jacques posted a .922 save percentage and a 2.01 goals against average in the opening weekend of play.

Whoever starts in goal for the Huskies tonight will have the challenge of stopping Minnesota’s power play in a rivalry that tends to get a little bit chippy.

The Gophers scored eight power-play goals in 12 opportunities last weekend in North Dakota.

While the Huskies will have to stave off the power play, they will also have to counteract one of Minnesota’s strengths: its speed.

“It’s going to be the fastest opponent we’ll play all year Ö We’ll have to play very smart,” Lesteberg said.

And Minnesota will have to remember its game first, celebration second.