Gophers women’s hockey set to begin NCAA tournament

Minnesota will look to avenge a recent double-overtime loss on Saturday.

Redshirt senior Lee Stecklein handles the puck on Saturday, February 4, 2017 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.

Courtney Deutz

Redshirt senior Lee Stecklein handles the puck on Saturday, February 4, 2017 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.

by Tommy Sletten

Rivalries are fostered through games of high risk and high reward.

The in-state rivalry between Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth will only grow more in the NCAA quarterfinal matchup on Saturday, with the winner advancing and the loser going home.

With a Frozen Four bid on the line, the Gophers will look to silence the Bulldogs despite being eliminated by them in the WCHA Tournament last Saturday.

“Even though we lost our last game and lost to Duluth, I still felt like we played really, really well,” said head coach Brad Frost.

While Minnesota has seen tremendous historic success against its northern rival — holding a 51-27-7 lead in the overall series — Minnesota-Duluth is leading the season series 3-2, with the Gophers seen as the underdog this weekend.

The teams have also only met once in the postseason in the past — a Frozen Four semifinal game in which the Bulldogs beat the Gophers in 2010, and Minnesota-Duluth went on to win its fifth and most recent national title.

“We’re considered an underdog this year, but, at the same time, we’re not really an underdog,” said sophomore forward Sarah Potomak. “Everyone wants to beat us, but we’re just excited to prove to everyone that we’re the number one team in the country.”

Potomak could be a bright spot for the team heading into the postseason as she tallied five points in last year’s national title run, which included an overtime-winning goal in the national semifinal.

Minnesota also saw assistant captain Dani Cameranesi rejoin the lineup last weekend after missing 17 games due to injury, and the senior tied a program record for shots in a game with 14 in the final face-off tilt against the Bulldogs.

The Gophers have been successful in NCAA quarterfinals with a 9-2-0 record all-time.

It is Minnesota-Duluth’s first NCAA appearance since its 2010 national title but the 10th consecutive for Minnesota and the 15th overall appearance for the team.

But this game comes with a challenge the Gophers haven’t seen in some time.

Minnesota faces a quarterfinal on the road for the first time since 2010. The last time out didn’t fare well for the Gophers as they lost 4-1 to Boston College.

The team said that the hostile environment will have little effect,especially since the Bulldogs are a conference opponent for the Gophers and the arena is familiar.

“I don’t think it changes much; you’re always playing for your season in a quarterfinal like that, so there’s always anxiety and excitement no matter whether you’re playing away or at home,” said senior defenseman Lee Stecklein. “It’ll be different because we’re on the road, but at least it’s somewhere we’ve been before.”