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Women’s hockey pregame report: (3) Gophers vs. (6) Clarkson

It’s win or go home time for the Gophers. Or, I guess, win or stay home as the trip to the NCAA Frozen Four begins here today with a quarterfinal matchup between the Gophers and Clarkson (23-11-5) at Ridder Arena. The Puck is set to drop at 4 p.m.

With a win today, Minnesota (25-8-5) would move on to the NCAA Frozen Four which will also be held at Ridder Arena March 19-21.

Cornell became the first team to solidify their spot in Minneapolis last night, defeating Harvard 6-2. This is the first year the Big Red have even made it to the NCAA postseason, much less the Frozen Four.

On to today’s game. Clarkson is coming off a disappointing run in the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament, falling to eventual-champion Cornell.

The Golden Knights are led by senior Dominique Thibault, who has tallied a team-leading 40 points this year. Clarkson’s sophomore forward Kali Gillanders, who has 13 points this season, is the sister of Gophers recruit Baylee Gillanders. That should make for an interesting subplot should these teams meet again in the future.

Both of these players were not much of a factor when their team visited the Gophers in late November, but neither was anybody in green and gold. Minnesota shutout Clarkson 4-0 and 2-0 in what may have been the biggest challenge the Gophers had faced up to that point.

If there were a Sportscenter top-ten plays of Minnesota’s season, No. 1 would have been an incredible save made by Noora Raty against Clarkson in the first game. On about the third rebound attempt from right in front of the net, a Clarkson player shot the puck high with Raty on her stomach. Somehow, the Finnish freshman rolled over, snapped her glove in the air and caught it. Everyone in the building thought it went in. Even the lamp lit up, only to be shut off after Raty calmly dropped the puck and skated away. Just another day in the life.

Last weekend, the Gophers were just one goal from wining the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament. After defeating Ohio State in double overtime, Minnesota came back the next day and fell to Minnesota-Duluth in the title game 3-2. Should the Gophers win today, it may set up an epic matchup between the in-state rivals in the NCAA semifinals. The Bulldogs are just starting their match with New Hampshire and won’t finish by the time this game starts.

For updates on the game today here at Ridder Arena and what transpires in Duluth, follow my live blog of all the action.

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