Women’s hockey returns 19, opens season Friday with high expectations

The Minnesota women’s hockey team will kick its season off this weekend and host nonconference foes Union and Syracuse.

Samuel Gordon

The Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey team will kick its season off this weekend and host nonconference foes Union and Syracuse. With WCHA play just a week away, head coach Brad Frost isnâÄôt taking either team lightly.

âÄúThese games matter, but theyâÄôre not exhibition. They count on our schedule and our wins and losses. WeâÄôre taking them pretty seriously. WeâÄôre getting as prepared as we can get,âÄù Frost said.

Friday will mark the GophersâÄô first meeting with Union. The Dutchwomen were 11-29-3 last season, and had a 1-19-2 record in their conference.

Minnesota beat Syracuse twice in the 2009-10 season openers in the only two matchups between the teams.

The Gophers return 19 players from last yearâÄôs team and Frost said that the teamâÄôs depth is one of its premier strengths. Of those 19, six are seniors.

âÄúWeâÄôre definitely led by a senior class âĦ All six of our seniors have been there, done that. They know what it takes to win hockey games,âÄù Frost said.

 âÄúYou look at our team and itâÄôs a very strong one, but thereâÄôs also many strong teams in our league and nationally.âÄù

Frost said he will use this weekendâÄôs games to help gauge the play of his freshmen and to finalize configuration of the third and fourth lines.

Rachael Bona, Meghan Lorence and Rachel Ramsey were all high school Ms. Hockey finalists in their seasons and will look to make an immediate impact.

Minnesota is ranked No. 4 in the USCHO.com preseason poll. Four WCHA teams are ranked in the top 10, and defending national champion Wisconsin is No. 1.

However, senior captain Jen Schoullis dismissed preseason pollsâÄô importance, or lack thereof. She said the team still has a lot to prove.

âÄúBeing ranked fourth nationally and second in the WCHA, its humbling, but I think we want more out of the rankings. Wisconsin is who weâÄôre chasing and we ultimately want to be No. 1 in the WCHA,âÄù she said.

Senior defenseman Anne Schleper agreed with her teammate.

âÄúItâÄôs all on paper. Preseason rankings are on paper. Every weekend we have to prove what weâÄôve got,âÄù she said.

âÄúIn the WCHA now we canâÄôt just go into a weekend and mark a tally down for a win,âÄù Schleper added. âÄúWeâÄôve got to go into every weekend and really prove that ranking right.âÄù

The Gophers begin WCHA play on Oct. 7 against St. Cloud State.