St. Cloud, MN – After a break of nearly a month, the SCSU women’s hockey team hits the ice with a three-game series with the University of Minnesota beginning on Thursday, January 7th at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The No. 2 -ranked Gophers’ two-game series against No. 6 Minnesota Duluth that was scheduled for Jan. 4-5, at Ridder Arena was postponed as UMD was unable to meet the minimum number of players required to compete outlined in the WCHA’s Return to Competition protocols. As a result, the Gophers and Huskies scheduled the additional game for Thursday. This will be the first game between the two squads this season and on Thursday, the 100th all-time meeting between the teams.
On having to jump right into play against the #2 ranked Gophers coach Steve Macdonald noted” They (the Gophers) have had the same amount of time off as us. For us, any time you’re coming off a break it’s difficult to be in game mode. We think our team has handled (the time off) very well. We had a great week of practice and did a lot of game situations. Our fitness levels are good so we are feeling good going into the game Thursday.”
In facing the high-powered offense of the Gophers Macdonald said their strategy is “To take away their time and space. They have a lot of speed and team skill and a lot of individual skill as well so its a matter of limiting that time and space and not just backing off and giving them time. They will have the puck. It’s just a matter of limiting that time when they have it.”
On the three games in four days, senior Laura Kluge commented “We will take things game by game. We will step back on Friday to recover. It’s hard to come back after being off (for a month). There will be recovery pieces for us.”
“This week will be super important for me as far as preparation,” said impact freshman Emma Gentry who has two goals in three games. Despite the time off, “I’ll definitely be ready to go and piggyback off how I’ve started the season.”
SCSU Huskies (2-4-0 ) vs #2 U of MN Golden Gophers (5-1-0 )
Live Stream: BTN+ $ (Thursday/Saturday) FloHockey (Sunday)
Listen: Gophers All-Access 97.5RADIOX(Thursday/Saturday) KVSC 88.1 (Sunday)
Where: Ridder Arena- Minneapolis, MN; Jan., 7/9 | Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN; Jan., 10
When: Thu., Jan. 7 (3:07 PM CT) | Sat., Jan. 9 (4:07 PM CT) | Sun., Jan. 10 (3:07 PM CT)
Last Time Out
The Huskies split a series at Bemidji State on December 10/11 winning in overtime in the series opener by a 3-2 score. Emma Gentry scored the game-winning goal 2:37 in the OT session. Emma Polusny logged the win in goal stopping 27 of 29 shots. In the rematch, Gentry scored the game-tying goal 12:37 into period three to send the teams to a second consecutive overtime. This time, the Beavers prevailed just 50 seconds into overtime on a goal by Claire De George. Emma Polusny turned aside 25 of 28 shots on goal in the road loss.
The Gophers also played on December 10th and 11th sweeping a home and home series vs Minnesota State. In the first game in Mankato, MN, the Gophers broke open a tight game by exploding for four goals in the third period en route to a 5-1 win. Abigail Boren scored twice with the game-winner scored by Olivia Knowles. In game two at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, a power-play goal by Grace Zumwinkle in period two was the difference as the Gophers edged the Mavericks 2-1.
Head to Head
Thursday will be the 100th all-time meeting between the two teams. The University of Minnesota holds an all-time record of 93-3-3 vs St. Cloud State. At Ridder Arena, the Gophers have an all-time advantage of 44-0-2. They have also won 14 straight games vs the Huskies. The Gophers have been difficult to defeat on home ice with a 301-50-22 all-time record.
University of Minnesota
The seven-time national champion Gophers last won the crown in 2016. As mentioned, they have been difficult to defeat on home ice at Ridder Arena. They are led by the Gopher’s all-time active scoring leader Grace Zumwinkle (5-1-6) who has accumulated 72 goals and 58 assists for 130 points in her career. Other top returning scorers include Taylor Heise and Amy Potomak. Abigail Boren is the second-leading goal scorer with 3-0-3 with the balance of the goal-scoring spread out over 10 other players.
Freshman forward Audrey Wethington is the daughter of Kerry Brodt Wethington, the first Division I Women’s coach at St. Cloud State who was the head coach from 1998 to 2002. Her uncle Vic Brodt is a former men’s hockey player at SCSU and her cousin, Hannah Brodt Prow played for the SCSU women’s hockey team.
The Gopher defense is led by Emily Brown and Olivia Knowles. Goaltender and senior Laura Bench currently holds a 4-1-0 record and outstanding season statistics with a .965 save percentage and 1.21 goals against.
On special teams, the power play has not been particularly effective at 11% but the penalty kill has been perfect not allowing a goal in 16 opportunities against. The Gophers have outscored their opponents by an 18-7 margin and are averaging 3.00 goals per game while only allowing 1.17 goals per game.
St. Cloud State University Huskies
The Huskies are looking for their first win at Ridder Arena on Thursday and only their fourth all-time win vs the Gophers. Despite being outscored 18-9 so far this season and allowing 3.00 goals per game, they are getting strong performances out of their goaltenders, Emma Polusny (.922 SV% / 2.85 GAA) and Sanni Ahola (.920 SV% / 3.17 GAA). For this weeks series, Macdonald was not committing to his starting rotation and indicated it would be decided upon by Thursday.
Like the Gophers, the power play needs work as they are scoreless in 18 opportunities. The penalty kill, however, has been very strong currently at 95%.
The Huskies do have some firepower upfront with a number of players that just need to get untracked. Through six games, junior forward, Jennina Nyland leads the squad with 3 goals and 2 assist for 5 points in six games and 22 shots on goal. Freshman, Emma Gentry, an impact first-year player has 2 goals and 1 assist for three points in three games. Sophomores, Klara Hymlarova and Taylor Lind can also bury the puck. Senior Laura Kluge has one assist but can add offense and needs to place the puck on the net more often.
The defense is led by senior Hannah Bates and Olivia Hanson who have played well on the defensive side of things.
It’ll be a tough task to steal points from the Gophers at Ridder Arena. However, the 100th game between the two teams is as good of a time as any to earn that first win.