Minn. opens WCHA schedule against North Dakota

Nate Gotlieb

ItâÄôs not often that a team coming off of a Frozen Four appearance has to worry about an opponent that has never beaten them in 28 chances. But an eighth-ranked North Dakota team that defeated reigning national champion Minnesota-Duluth 4-2 this past Sunday is finally in position to give the Gophers a test. With a revamped roster and a pair of series splits against UMD and Boston University, both top-10 teams, the Gophers arenâÄôt taking their first WCHA opponent lightly. âÄúWe know what theyâÄôre about,âÄù coach Brad Frost said. âÄúTheyâÄôre a great team, and we feel like weâÄôre pretty good too, and weâÄôll just have to make sure that weâÄôre as prepared as possible going in.âÄù The Fighting Sioux are led by sophomore forwards Jocelyne Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux-Kolls. The twin sisters were All-WCHA performers during their freshman year at Minnesota combining for 67 goals and 73 assists. After transferring to UND, the sisters redshirted last season and opted to play for team USA at the winter Olympics. The two have combined for 11 points in four regular season games, including four points (and the game-winner) by Monique against UMD on Sunday. âÄúTheyâÄôre obviously the engine that makes that team go, and we understand that,âÄù Frost said. âÄúAnd just like any team that has one, two or three really good players, we need to obviously pay a little bit of extra attention to them.âÄù Added junior Jen Schoullis: âÄúTheyâÄôre very aggressive players and donâÄôt like to be tamed too much. We just have to be all over them and not let them take 10 shots a game, and I think weâÄôll be alright.âÄù UND is one of a few teams in the WCHA that may represent a challenge to the firm grip that Minnesota, UMD and Wisconsin have held on both the conference and nation. âÄúI donâÄôt think we can overlook any team in the WCHA,âÄù Schoullis said. The latest USCHO.com Division I womenâÄôs hockey poll shows the depth of the conference. Five WCHA teams cracked the top ten: Minnesota and Wisconsin tied at No. 3, UMD at No. 5, North Dakota at No. 8 and Ohio State at No. 10. Ever since the NCAA tournamentâÄôs inaugural year in 2000, UMD, Wisconsin or Minnesota has won the national championship. Minnesota has two national titles (and another in the old American WomenâÄôs College Hockey Alliance), Wisconsin has three, and Minnesota Duluth has five. The Bulldogs, pegged to finish first in this yearâÄôs WCHA pre-season poll, return six players who redshirted for the 2010 Olympics. They also return four of their five top scorers from a team that led the WCHA in goals last season, along with third-team WCHA goalie Jennifer Harss. The Badgers were 3-1 against the Gophers last season and return WCHA Player of the Year Hilary Knight as well as head coach Mark Johnson, who coached the 2010 womenâÄôs Olympic team. UMD and Wisconsin have proven to be the GophersâÄô toughest competition over the years. The Gophers are 281-71-27 overall over the past 10 seasons but only 46-40-9 against Wisconsin and Minnesota Duluth. Seven of the GophersâÄô losses in 2009-10 came against either the Badgers or the Bulldogs. The Gophers want to get off to a good start in WCHA play, with UMD and Wisconsin on the schedule coming in late October and early November. âÄúIt puts in place how weâÄôre going to play for the rest of the season,âÄù Schoullis said. âÄúWe donâÄôt want to come out and have a first few bad games, so weâÄôre going do all we can to take this series.âÄù