Minnesota still looking for its first conference victories

The Gophers couldn’t put away either game last week but has two chances at OSU.

Nick Heronimus

The Minnesota women’s hockey team heads to Ohio State for a contest that features two teams searching for their first WCHA victories.

The games will be played at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, in a weekend series at Ohio State University Ice Rink.

The Gophers face a Buckeyes team that battled Wisconsin to a 2-2 tie, which ended the Badgers 17-game win streak.

The success Ohio State had against top-ranked Wisconsin is something that Minnesota has noticed, but nothing it will shy away from.

“We are expecting to go in there and battle,” head coach Brad Frost said.

Early in this season’s games, Minnesota (2-1-1, 0-1-1 WCHA) has had sequences of strong play followed by letdowns, which was an issue addressed during the week.

“We will have flashes of looking good and other times not so much,” Frost said.

In response to that and in preparation for the challenge that Ohio State (1-2-1, 0-1-1 WCHA) presents, Minnesota cranked up the level of intensity during this week’s practices.

“I just think we found out that if we don’t work hard in the games we’re going to work hard the week after,” senior Erica McKenzie said.

The hard work put in this week’s practices will be necessary to deal with the task of overcoming a traditionally strong Ohio State defense.

The leaders of that Buckeyes defense are senior Tessa Bonhomme and senior Lisa Chesson.

Together with the rest of their fellow Ohio State defenders, the Buckeyes went and killed nine out of 11 power plays against the Badgers last weekend.

The centerpiece of the staunch Buckeyes defense is junior goaltender Liana Bonanno.

Bonanno stopped 63 shots over the weekend against a high-powered Wisconsin offense.

“We’ll have to put the pucks by her no matter how good she is doing and crash that net and bang them in,” junior Gigi Marvin said.

The Gophers have had some success against Bonanno, as they scored four goals against her last year at the OSU Ice Rink.

Providing the offense to face such a strong defense will be McKenzie and Marvin.

They rank No. 1 and No. 2 in points, respectively, for the Gophers this year.

McKenzie has six points, and those points are made up of an impressive five goals in four games this season.

Marvin has five points, with four of those coming from assisting her teammates for goals.

Success for the Gophers this weekend will come from handling the Ohio State defense and finding much-needed consistency.

“We just got to get it done on the ice and we’ll have fun doing it,” Marvin said.

Four Nation’s selections

Minnesota will be well-represented on Team USA when the Four Nation’s Cup takes place on Nov. 7-11 in Leksand, Sweden.

The Gophers competing for Team USA are Gigi Marvin of Warroad, Minn.; Erica McKenzie of Hastings; and Anya Miller of Elk River, Minn.

Also competing for Team USA is former Gopher great Natalie Darwitz of Eagan.

This is Marvin’s second-straight selection for the Four Nation’s Cup roster. It will be the first for both Miller and McKenzie.

“That’s what we dream for,” McKenzie said. “We don’t have NHL or anything like that so this is pretty exciting for us.”