Wildcats visit in final homestand

Minnesota looks to end its current four game winless streak Friday.

Mark Mowery

After four consecutive conference matches without a victory, Minnesota (10-5-3 overall, 3-5-2 Big Ten) looks to strengthen its tournament résumé Friday night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium at 7 p.m. against Northwestern (6-8-2, 3-3-1). After back-to-back winless weekends, the Gophers hope to start a final push towards the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Northwestern comes in having won its last two contests, including a 1-0 win over Michigan State, whom the Gophers lost to this past weekend, 2-1 . The Wildcats are anchored by senior Alicia Herczeg who leads the squad in scoring with 10 points on five goals. In order for a late season turnaround, Minnesota must jumpstart its offensive production, which has seen a significant decrease in conference play. Though the Gophers lead the Big Ten in shots , they have scored just two goals in their last four conference matches and havenâÄôt scored multiple goals in a conference game since a 2-1 victory over Wisconsin on October 1st. Meanwhile, MinnesotaâÄôs defense looks to rebound after allowing multiple goals to a conference foe for the first time since Sept. 27th, a 2-2 tie at Illinois. While Northwestern comes to Minnesota fresh off a 2-1 overtime win at Iowa, the Gophers are still trying to recover from a weekend of physical play and quick-changing fortune. The matchup against Michigan featured 31 fouls and included two red cards, one of which left the Gophers a player down for a majority of the second half and discouraged any more aggressive play from the squad. The Gophers and Wolverines tied, 1-1, after double overtime. âÄúIt was their advantage to play us physically,âÄù head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. In the other game, two goals within 90 seconds gave Michigan State a 2-1 victory over the Gophers. Impressive play by Spartans sophomore Laura Heyboer led to both goals and eliminated the GophersâÄô possibility of repeating as Big Ten Champions. âÄúWe just ended up on the wrong side of Big Ten competitiveness,âÄù Denney Wright said. Minnesota hopes to get back on the right side of that Big Ten competitiveness with strong efforts from junior Katie Bethke and sophomore Tamara Strahota . Bethke, the teamâÄôs leading scoring with 27 points , hasnâÄôt found the back of the net since a four-goal effort against South Dakota on Oct. 4th. Strahota, who has had a hand in the GophersâÄô last three conference goals (two goals, one assist), could be the spark the offense desperately needs. Weather could add an interesting element to the game, with predicted gusts for Friday around 35 mph . The Wildcats only sit a point behind the Gophers in the Big Ten standings, having played one less game . The recent series between the two teams has also slightly favored the Gophers, who have won six of the last ten meetings.