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Preview: Gopher women’s hockey faces Minnesota State in WCHA playoffs

The Gophers are undefeated against Minnesota State since 2022.
Image by Ethan Fine
Freshman forward Emma Kreisz has 25 points in her first year as a Gopher.

Gopher women’s hockey hosts the Minnesota State Mavericks at Ridder Arena this weekend for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

The two teams will meet for a best-of-three-game series with the winner advancing to the WCHA Final Faceoff.

Minnesota finished third in the WCHA standings with a 19-7-2 in-conference record, while Minnesota State finished sixth for the second consecutive season.

The Gophers won all four regular-season games against the Mavericks this season. Three of the games were decided by one goal, including their most recent matchup being decided in overtime.

Minnesota State has not won a game against Minnesota since Jan. 15, 2022, when the Mavericks defeated the Gophers 5-4 in overtime at Ridder Arena. Prior to the loss, Minnesota State’s last win against Minnesota was on Jan. 20, 2007. 

Gophers head coach Brad Frost said the team is aware that the series against Minnesota State will not be easy.

“Nothing is guaranteed going into these weekends,” Frost said. “In particular, the matchups with Minnesota State have all been one-goal games.”

Against ranked opponents this season, the Mavericks have five one-goal losses and one win. Their lone victory against a ranked team was a 2-1 win on Jan. 12 against then-ranked No. 8 St. Cloud State.

The Gophers’ seven losses this year were solely against two ranked opponents: No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Wisconsin.

Frost said one of the hardest parts in sports is to end another team’s season.

“The only way for [us] to play beyond this weekend is for [us] to keep winning,” Frost said.

Frost added that despite the Mavericks having six wins in the WCHA, the team can score and defend well. Minnesota State won all six of their matchups against non-conference opponents this season.

Minnesota’s first game against Minnesota State this season was a 3-1 win at Ridder Arena on Nov. 3. The Gophers scored three unanswered goals in the victory in response to the Mavericks opening the scoring within the first two minutes.

In the Gophers’ last home game against the Mavericks on Jan. 26, the Mavericks erased the Gophers’ three-goal lead in the third period. Maverick’s leading goal scorer and senior forward Jamie Nelson had two goals and one assist in her team’s comeback attempt.

Gophers redshirt junior forward Abbey Murphy scored in the latter half of the third period to give the Gophers a 4-3 win. Murphy leads the team in points against the Mavericks this season with five total, including three goals and two assists.

Gopher captain and junior forward Peyton Hemp said she enjoys the playoffs because it motivates seniors and other players in their final season. 

“Everyone goes crazy for every single goal in the playoffs,” Hemp said.

For fifth-year defender Taylor Stewart, there is truth behind Hemp’s comments as playoff season carries a sense of urgency for upperclassmen.

“You’re playing like every game is your last game,” Stewart said.

Stewart said the Gophers’ recent series against Minnesota Duluth involved a lot of physicality. She added all of Minnesota’s playoff games will include that same level of intensity, especially against Minnesota State.

“Not only will they be putting bodies on us but we’re going to get them right back,” Stewart said. “When teams start to play physical with us, we match it and shove them down too.”

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