Rivalry games always crank up the intensity between teams, but when one of those teams is ranked No. 1, the amplitude of the game rises to a new crescendo.
No. 10 Minnesota will battle No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth in a weekend rivalry series at Ridder Arena. The teams will play Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Gophers (3-2-1, 1-2-1 WCHA) are fully aware of the roll that the Bulldogs are on right now.
“They are deserving of the No. 1 ranking in the country,” head coach Brad Frost said. “They are very talented.”
Minnesota-Duluth (5-0-1, 4-0-0 WCHA) has started off the season sizzling. Most recently they are coming off a victory and tie over then No. 2 Mercyhurst.
More impressively, though, is the way the Bulldogs are shutting down their opponents offense. They have only allowed two goals to opponents in their six games of play this season.
A major part of their stifling defense is sophomore goaltender Kim Martin. Martin is only allowing a 0.39 goals against average and has a .986 percent save percentage.
Frost recognizes the challenge that Martin presents and that the Gophers will need to work extra hard to put points on the board.
“She’s one of the best in the world,” Frost said. “If she sees the puck, generally she’s going to stop it.”
He went on to say that it will be necessary for Minnesota to get traffic in front of the net to disrupt her vision and increase the Gophers’ chances of scoring.
“You have to be very, very tough in our own end and limit their odd man rushes against,” Frost said.
As tough of a task as it may seem for Minnesota to overcome a powerful Bulldog team, there have been signs indicating success for the Gophers.
“Every time we play the Bulldogs we have a good week of practice,” senior forward Jenelle Philipczyk said. “I think everyone is ready to go and you can see it during practice.”
Last year Minnesota swept Minnesota-Duluth in their opening season series and used that to catapult them into a 10-game winning streak.
“If we win these games it would be huge for us confidence-wise,” senior defender Anya Miller said.
Even though the Bulldogs come in highly ranked and boasting a powerful cast of characters, early season rankings can sometimes be misleading. That has given the Gophers confidence heading into this rivalry game.
“I think the difference between the No. 1 team in the country and the No. 12 or 13 in the country isn’t that large,” Frost said.
In search of an early season signature win, Minnesota will attempt to get that against a talented Minnesota-Duluth squad.
“When you play a team like Duluth you can’t let up for a second,” Miller said. “Otherwise they’ll take advantage of it, and they’ll probably score on you.”
Minnesota will celebrate the 10th year of the program’s existence on Saturday, Oct. 27.
Events featured on Saturday will be an alumni game to be played at noon. Also before the Gophers’ game on Saturday there will be a pregame ceremony.
The ceremony will consist of recognition of Minnesota alums, autograph sessions, silent auctions and video-highlights of past Gophers teams.
The Minnesota alums who are returning for the event include Gophers greats Winny Brodt, La Toya Clarke, Natalie Darwitz, Shannon Kennedy, Nadine Muzerall, Julie Otto and Ambria Thomas.