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Preview: Gophers women’s hockey faces Clarkson in NCAA quarterfinals

The Gophers are looking for a win against No. 4 Clarkson to advance and earn their second consecutive Frozen Four appearance.
Image by Eric Miller
Josefin Bouveng had a goal and an assist in the 4-3 overtime loss against Wisconsin last weekend.

Gophers women’s hockey face the No. 4 Clarkson Golden Knights in Potsdam, New York in an NCAA tournament regional round game on Saturday afternoon. 

The four regional matchups are on Saturday, with the winners advancing to play in the Frozen Four in Durham, New Hampshire. The NCAA tournament is a single-elimination game format, meaning a loss would end the Gophers’ season.

Clarkson is a member of the ECAC Hockey conference and has not played a non-conference game against a WCHA opponent this season. 

The Golden Knights finished second in the ECAC regular season standings and in the conference postseason tournament. The Gophers ranked third in the WCHA standings but were eliminated in the semifinals of the postseason tournament.

The last time Minnesota faced Clarkson was in 2017 when the Golden Knights defeated the Gophers 4-3 in the Frozen Four. Clarkson went on to win the national championship that season.

Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said it is exciting for the players to play unfamiliar non-conference opponents. 

“We don’t know them as well as we know teams in our league,” Frost said. “They don’t know us that well, either.”

Frost said Clarkson is comfortable playing in low-scoring games and acknowledged Clarkson’s strong defense. The Golden Knights have allowed the least amount of goals and hold the best penalty kill percentage in the NCAA. 

Minnesota’s most recent game was a 4-3 overtime defeat in the WCHA Final Faceoff against the eventual tournament champion, No. 2 Wisconsin. The Gophers’ season was extended, as they received a bid as the fifth seed in the NCAA tournament last Sunday.

“We’re doing those little things that it takes to win at this time of year,” Frost said.

Gophers captain and junior forward Peyton Hemp said the simple tasks, such as getting shots on goal and picking up rebounds, will help Minnesota overcome Clarkson’s defense.

“I feel like discipline is huge,” Hemp said. “Whether that’s staying out of the box and not retaliating or staying structured in the ‘D-zone,’ I think that’s going to be huge for us. It’s just sticking with the details.”

The Gophers lead the WCHA in penalty minutes, taking an average of approximately four penalties per game. Minnesota committed five penalties in their most recent game against Wisconsin.

Graduate defender Madeline Wethington said this is her first time playing an away game for the NCAA tournament regional round.

“Obviously, we would have loved to have it at Ridder [Arena], especially for a final game for myself,” Wethington said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a new opportunity.”

Wethington said playing a non-conference team in Clarkson means playing a different style than against conference opponents such as Wisconsin or Minnesota State. She added the Gophers cannot be discouraged by the Golden Knights’ defensive pressure.

“We might not score in the first five minutes of the game but if we continue to do the right things and put ourselves in a good position, eventually, we’ll have success,” Wethington said.

Wethington added minor mistakes such as not blocking shots can be costly, especially against teams like Ohio State and Wisconsin.

“They’re going to capitalize on those and they’re going to take advantage of your mistakes,” Wethington said.

Last weekend, Minnesota led Wisconsin late in the third period until the Badgers scored the game-tying goal with eight seconds left and eventually won in overtime. Wethington said the Gophers’ ability to have a close game with a top team like Wisconsin gives her confidence. 

“If that tells you something, that means that we can compete,” Wethington said. “We put ourselves in a really good position to win the game.”

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