Minnesota, UMD show striking similarities

by Nate Gotlieb

In this yearâÄôs rendition of the Gophers-Minnesota-Duluth rivalry, odds are this weekendâÄôs series will play out in the following way: The winning team will score no more than four goals, but can get by with three. While the Gophers will most likely outshoot UMD, the team that strikes first will often go on to win. There will be an abundance of penalty minutes, yet both teams will have a tough time turning power plays into goals. In short, the Gophers and their biggest in-state rival have a back-and-forth history that suggests the series could go either way. Last season, UMD went 4-2 against the Gophers, including wins in the WCHA championship game and the national semifinal game. Despite the different results for the two programs last season, the teams are strikingly similar. Both the Gophers and UMD build their success around a core of solid goaltenders. While the GophersâÄô Noora Raty and Alyssa Grogan have combined to allow only seven goals and record five shutouts, UMDâÄôs Kim Martin and Jennifer Harass have given up six goals and posted four shutouts. Both teams have scored considerably more goals than their opponents (Gophers 21-7, UMD 29-6), and both have allowed just one goal per game. Both have taken one more penalty than their opponents (Gophers 39-38, UMD 24-23). They both suffered their only loss (or, in the Gophers case, losses) to North Dakota. The similarities go on. They both have banners commemorating a 2010 WCHA regular season championship. They both have members of the 2010 Finnish Olympic team (Noora Raty for the Gophers, Mariia Posa for UMD). They both have a freshman member of the Gillanders family. So whatâÄôs going to be the deciding factor when the two teams square off for the first time since UMD eeked out a 3-2 win in last yearâÄôs NCAA semi-finals? It could be the motivation of last yearâÄôs Frozen Four loss. âÄúWe still feel the way we felt (after the national semi-final loss),âÄù senior Emily West said before the season. âÄúYou donâÄôt get rid of that. I think that drives everyone over the summer to work just as hard if not harder than the other teams, especially the ones that did that too us.âÄù It could be the second period. While UMD has scored more than half of their goals âÄî 15 of 29 âÄî in the second period, the Gophers have been stout defensively, only allowing one goal in the second. âÄúWhenever you have a quality team, the second period is usually one of your best periods,âÄù coach Brad Frost said. Or it could be the home ice advantage for UMD. Both the Gophers and UMD are traditionally very tough to beat at home, losing a combined three games at home last season. In their last 20 meetings, the home team has won 13 of the 20 contests, but UMD is only 3-3 at home the last three years against the Gophers. âÄúTheyâÄôre a very good team at home,âÄù Frost said, âÄúThey have a great fan base, so we need to keep them off the board as long as possible.âÄù This series marks the last time the Gophers will play at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Arena. The BulldogâÄôs new arena, AMSOIL Arena, will open Dec. 30, 2010. Until then, the Gophers are looking to beat the Bulldogs one final time at the DECC. âÄúThereâÄôs nothing better than beating Duluth at their home rink,âÄù junior Jen Schoullis said. âÄúWe go there and get put in this flamingo pink locker room. ItâÄôs funny, but at the same time you get out on the ice and thereâÄôs just this unbelievable intensity and rivalry between the two teams. And whoever wins, itâÄôs the best feeling in the world.âÄù