Gophers head to Columbus for weekend series

No. 2 Minnesota looks to start conference play on a high note.

by John Hageman

The Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey team begins its Western Collegiate Hockey Association season this weekend as they travel to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes on Friday and Saturday with both games slated to start at 7 p.m . The No. 2 Gophers started their season last weekend taking both games from Syracuse, 4-3 and 4-1. Ohio State faced No. 10 Boston College last weekend and came back from behind in both games to tie, 1-1 and 4-4 . The Buckeyes finished 8-25-3 last year, including four losses to the Gophers by a combined score of 37-6. Minnesota head coach Brad Frost concerns will have to worry about Buckeyes sophomore Natalie Spooner, who won four WCHA rookie of the week awards and led the team in goals with 21. The Gophers will also have to keep an eye on fellow sophomore Laura McIntosh, who led the team in assists (28) and points (39) last year. But the Gophers will have some firepower of their own in senior Chelsey Jones, who was named WCHA offensive player of the week for her performance against Syracuse. She scored three goals âÄî one more than she had all of last year âÄî including the game winner on Friday. âÄúShe is much more confident this year in shooting the puck,âÄù Frost said. âÄúShe is an extremely hard-nosed, tough player.âÄù Though the squad executed well on power plays, improved defense will be one of the teamâÄôs goals this weekend. âÄúI still think there are some opportunities where we had some rushes âĦ that we didnâÄôt make very good decisions on,âÄù Frost said. âÄúBut overall, I was pretty happy with our performance.âÄù Last week, the Gophers used different goalies for the games. Alyssa Grogan started Friday and allowed three goals with 15 saves, while freshman Noora Räty allowed only one goal with 17 saves on Sunday. The Gophers have three potential starting goalies, but Frost has not announced who will start this weekend for the team, though he said it will likely be two different players. Another question mark for the Gophers is senior forward Kelli Blankenship , who will remain day-to-day after suffering a concussion during last FridayâÄôs game. She did not play in the Sunday game. While the Gophers have had recent success against Ohio State, Frost said that getting off to a good start in the WCHA is imperative. âÄúAs I told the players after our games against Syracuse, itâÄôs only going to get tougher from here,âÄù Frost said. âÄúItâÄôs also a tough place to win, so weâÄôll need to go there and play extremely well.âÄù