Gophers to meet first ranked foe

Minnesota will take on No. 6 Ohio State.

Minnesota forward Amanda Kessel drives toward the St. Cloud State goal Oct. 6 at Ridder Arena.

Anthony Kwan, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Amanda Kessel drives toward the St. Cloud State goal Oct. 6 at Ridder Arena.

by Betsy Helfand

The Gophers are expecting No. 6 Ohio State to enter their weekend match with confidence.

But the Buckeyes, who are Minnesota’s first ranked opponent this season, won’t be the only confident team at Ridder Arena.

“Our team’s been playing well — we just got a big sweep on the road,” junior forward Amanda Kessel said. “I think our players have a lot of confidence as well.”

With good reason.

The Gophers are 6-0-0 for the fifth time in program history, and No. 1 Minnesota has outscored opponents 40-1 in the six wins.

That number says as much about the Gophers’ offense as it does about their defense.

Minnesota has taken nearly twice the number of shots as it has allowed this season, and goalie Noora Räty has batted away just about everything that’s come her way.

Kessel and freshman Hannah Brandt are tied with each other for the NCAA lead with 18 points each.

Minnesota’s top line of Kessel, Brandt and Maryanne Menefee has anchored the scoring for the Gophers, but other lines have been finding the back of the net as well.

In last Saturday’s 6-0 win over St. Lawrence, 10 different Gophers players contributed a point.

“It’s up to our players. If they continue to execute, then they’re going to generate chances,” head coach Brad Frost said. “We put them in positions to succeed, and then they choose how they’re going to respond.”

Frost stressed the importance of getting production from more than just the top line.

“If we only have one line scoring, then we’re easier to stop,” he said. “Every line on our team has to score, [and] we need to get offense from our defensemen.”

The Gophers have eight players who have recorded six or more points throughout through the first six games.

Ohio State has five, which is decent considering it graduated its two top scorers, Natalie Spooner and Laura McIntosh.

“I think a lot of people thought that they would take a large step back … from last year,” Frost said.

Instead, he said, the opposite has happened.

“They’re starting to get goals from a multitude of players on their team,” Frost said. “They’re almost a more dangerous team because you have to look out for everybody instead of one or two players.”

The Buckeyes swept Minnesota-Duluth in Duluth and most recently split with North Dakota at home.

“Based on how they’ve performed the past couple weekends, I would say they’ve performed pretty darn well [with] McIntosh and Spooner being gone,” senior forward Katie Frischmann said.

When the the two teams met last February, Ohio State forward Ally Tarr was given a game misconduct for a hit on forward Emily West.

Tarr was given a one-game suspension because of the hit.

West has since graduated, and Kessel said she didn’t think any bad blood from that incident would carry over.

Minnesota currently has a 21-game winning streak over Ohio State and hasn’t lost to it since 2007.

Milestone watch

—Defenseman Megan Bozek currently sits at 99 points. With her next point, Bozek will be the fourth defenseman in program history to hit the century mark.

—Räty has 81 career wins to her name. She needs two more to tie Jody Horak for the school record.