Gophers battle Huskies in home-and-home series

Minnesota assistant coach Laura Slominski was a coach with St. Cloud State last year.

by Brian Deutsch

This weekend’s magic number is five. The Minnesota women’s hockey team is looking for its fifth-straight win, and its opponent, St. Cloud State, is looking for its first win against the Gophers in five years.

Minnesota takes on the Huskies in a home-and-home Western Collegiate Hockey Association series this weekend.

The series starts Friday at 2:07 p.m. at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. Saturday’s follow-up is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. at Ridder Arena.

Minnesota (8-3-1 overall, 5-2-1 WCHA) has dominated the Huskies in the past, owning a 29-1-0 record all-time against St. Cloud.

The Gophers took all four of last season’s games against the Huskies, winning by a combined score of 14-4.

“Since I’ve been here, every time we’ve played (St. Cloud State) has been a great game,” junior forward Bobbi Ross said. “We know they bring out their ‘A’ game every time against us.”

Last weekend, the Huskies (5-6-1, 2-6-0) snapped a four-game losing streak by sweeping two games against Ohio State.

“(St. Cloud State) usually plays us pretty hard,” junior defenseman Anya Miller said. “They’re pretty deep I think, and they’re going to be a good team.”

Unlike the Huskies, Minnesota will look to extend its four-game winning streak after sweeping both Niagara and Minnesota-Duluth.

The Gophers last loss came on the road, when they lost a 2-1 game against Ohio State on Oct. 28.

Minnesota is 7-1-0 at Ridder Arena this year and 1-2-1 on the road.

One aspect that the Gophers have had to prepare for is the difference in rink size.

“(Playing on a different sized rink) requires some adjustment,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “(A bigger rink) gives the advantage to the team with the puck because they have more time and space.”

On the ice of Ridder Arena, the Gophers are used to skating on an NHL-sized rink. A regulation NHL rink is 200 feet by 85 feet.

When the Gophers head to St. Cloud, they will have to skate on an Olympic-sized rink. An Olympic rink is 200 feet by 100 feet, giving the teams an additional 15 feet of ice.

“It really makes a difference with the amount of time you have,” Miller said. “You’ll look up and there’s so much more ice than you’re used to.”

Another difference this weekend will be who is behind the bench.

After playing for the Gophers from 1998-2002, Minnesota assistant coach Laura Slominski eventually landed an assistant coaching position for the Huskies last season.

Slominski is now back with the Gophers and this weekend’s series will be the first between her new team and her old team.

“(Slominski) was coaching there last year,” Halldorson said. “So I’m sure they have a lot of incentives to play well this weekend.”

Ross earns WCHA honor

After scoring three goals and one assist in last weekend’s two-game sweep over Niagara, Bobbi Ross earned her second-straight WCHA Offensive Player of the Week award.

Ross is tied for the team lead in points with 12. The junior captain has scored six goals and six assists in 12 games.