Gophers’ first road trip presents first real test

Minnesota will play St. Lawrence, which just dropped out of the rankings.

Betsy Helfand

Numbers don’t lie: The Gophers have outscored their opponents 29-1 this season.

This weekend, they’ll have some tougher competition in St. Lawrence, and they know they have to fix some of the mistakes they’ve been making.

The Saints won the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship last season before falling to Boston College in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.

St. Lawrence was ranked No. 7 before dropping two games to Clarkson last weekend. The Saints subsequently dropped out of the rankings.

Still, Minnesota is expecting them to come out strong.

“They made a great run last year. They’re a top team this year,” head coach Brad Frost said. “I think they’ll come with the same intensity that our other opponents have come with, but I think they’ll just be a little more skilled.”

Frost said the Gophers would continue to work on their defense and “just winning those battles that are necessary to get the pucks out.”

Defensive woes haven’t been obvious — after all, the team has allowed only one goal. But senior forward Katie Frischmann said Minnesota has been sloppy at times.

“St. Lawrence is going to be really tough, and we know that some of the mistakes we made, they will capitalize on [that]. Some other teams might not,” Frischmann said.

She said the Saints might pick up on sloppy passes in the defensive zone, or if a defender passes to the forwards and the forwards fail to clear the puck, the Saints might pick off the pass.

Senior captain Megan Bozek said Minnesota will have to use its speed to open up the ice more and counter St. Lawrence’s speed and depth.

Offensively, the Gophers have converted on 12 of 23 power plays thus far. Only 17 of their 29 goals have come at even strength.

Frost said although the power play has been tremendous, the team needs to work on generating more opportunities 5-on-5.

The No. 1 Gophers are 6-1-1 all-time against St. Lawrence, but the last time the two teams played was in 2005.

Bozek said playing St. Lawrence was going to be “quite a turn” for the team, especially the freshmen.

Minnesota has six freshmen, and Frost said that the road trip — the team’s first this year — would be a good “stepping stone for them for the future.”

He said all the travel would give them an opportunity to bring out their personalities in different situations.

The trek to Canton, N.Y., is one of the team’s longest of the season. Frost said the grind of traveling and playing a good team twice will benefit it in the future.

Frischmann said playing St. Lawrence “will only increase our level of play going into our next WCHA weekend.”