Gophers to play Sioux next weekend

Minnesota earned the No. 7 seed and will travel to fourth-seeded North Dakota.

by Max Sanders

FridayâÄôs 3-2 loss to Wisconsin sealed MinnesotaâÄôs fate as the No. 7 seed in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. Saturday, two other conference games determined where the Gophers will travel. The result? A trip back to Grand Forks to face the red-hot Sioux. After St. Cloud State earned one point in a 2-2 overtime tie against Minnesota State-Mankato, North Dakota completed its sweep over hapless Michigan Tech, sealing the SiouxâÄôs grip on the No. 4 seed. Going into the weekend with a chance to play either Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State or North Dakota, the Gophers drew a team that, as winners of seven straight games, enters the playoffs as the hottest team in the conference. Forced to travel for just the third time in the past 12 opening-round series, Minnesota is playing a playoff series in Grand Forks for the first time since 1987. The Gophers and Sioux last met in the opening round in 2002, when Minnesota swept North Dakota at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers have not experienced success in Grand Forks in the playoffs, as they are 0-5 all-time against North Dakota in Grand Forks in the WCHA playoffs. The previous two times the Gophers had to travel for the first round of the WCHA tournament opening round, Minnesota won, defeating Minnesota State-Mankato in 2008 and Colorado College in 2000. The regular season series between the schools saw the home team dominate, with each team winning and tying in their home rink. The Gophers are hoping the recent success of No. 7 seeds in the conference continues. The last two No. 7 seeds each advanced to the WCHA Final Five championship game with Minnesota-Duluth winning the Broadmoor Trophy last season and Minnesota advancing to the championship game in 2008. The best-of-three series will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ralph Engelstad Arena with the second game at 7 p.m. Saturday. If a third game is necessary, it will be played 7 p.m. Sunday.