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Gopher women’s hockey: the possibility of back-to-back regular season championships

The Gophers have one final regular season series against St. Thomas to potentially win the WCHA.
Image by Ethan Fine
Forward Catie Skaja stickhandles the puck in a game against St. Cloud State on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at Ridder Arena.

After falling in both games to Wisconsin in last week’s Border Battle, Minnesota has found itself in second place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).

Minnesota now enters the last weekend of the regular season to face seventh-place St. Thomas on the road. This matchup will factor into their final position in the standings in the WCHA.

The Gophers only managed to gain one of the available six points last weekend versus the Badgers via a shootout loss in the first game.

Head Coach Brad Frost was quoted in a press email saying, “A frustrating result … certainly not the outcome we were hoping for.”

Though the Gophers are no longer able to control their fate in the standings, there is still hope to regain first place.

“Still a lot of hockey left and we’ll regroup and be back at it next week,” Frost said.

Back in first place in the conference, Ohio State is in the driver’s seat when it comes to determining the final standings. The Buckeyes, with 66 points, have 3 points over the Gophers.

Ohio State enters its last series of the season to face Wisconsin at LaBahn Arena this weekend.

The two teams have faced each other in one series so far this season, with Ohio State winning both matchups in the series. The Buckeyes were at home that weekend, so the atmosphere was a factor in their two victories.

Although the Buckeyes are nearly perfect on the road this year, LaBahn Arena is a completely different environment. In their series against St. Cloud, Wisconsin had an attendance of over 14,000 fans at their first game.

For Minnesota to win first place in the WCHA, the Gophers have to either tie or surpass Ohio State’s point total. If the two teams manage to tie in points, the Gophers hold the advantage in the tiebreaker because they have a better head-to-head record against the Buckeyes.

Minnesota can reach a maximum of 69 points this season, while Ohio State can achieve 72. If Ohio State reaches 70 points, Minnesota cannot win the WCHA regular season. The Gophers need Wisconsin to either win at least one game in regulation, force Ohio State to overtime in both games and win at least one, or sweep Ohio State in regulation.

This is, however, assuming Minnesota manages to sweep St. Thomas and achieve their maximum. The Gophers have faced the Tommies twice this year, winning both games by a margin of three goals or greater.

If Minnesota fails to pass Ohio State in the standings, they will most likely face off against St. Thomas again in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

Since the Gophers play on Friday, Ohio State will have the advantage of knowing Minnesota’s point potential going into their first game against Wisconsin on Saturday.

Whatever the final score of the Buckeyes and Badgers games may be, the Gophers have to focus on ending on a high note to build momentum for the playoffs.

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