Gophers women’s hockey team faces bounce-back series against ‘sleeping giant’
Minnesota (8-3), now No. 2, prepares to take on No. 3 Ohio State (8-4), making up a series that was postponed last month due to COVID-19 issues within the Ohio State program.
Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s hockey coach Brad Frost knows his team is skilled. But it’s going to take more than just sheer ability for the Gophers to reach their goals.
That’s the message from Frost to his team this week as Minnesota attempts to rebound from back-to-back blowout losses at Wisconsin two weekends ago, the team’s last time on the ice.
Minnesota, the newly-minted No. 1 team in the country at the time, headed to Madison, Wis., and suffered its two worst losses of the season, losing 5-0 on Jan. 15 and 6-3 a day later. The Badgers at the time had been bumped down to No. 2 in the rankings, but are now back atop the polls once again.
“I think we were probably getting away with being just a little more skilled than other teams, and when you face a team that’s just as skilled as you, then it comes to some more intangibles, and that’s the compete and the work ethic and the battling,” Frost said. “So that’s really kind of been our focus here this week: Yeah, we’ve got skill but so do many other teams, and so it’s going to come down to other things other than skill most likely, and we need to be better in those areas.”
It’ll be especially important this upcoming weekend as Minnesota (8-3), now No. 2, prepares to take on No. 3 Ohio State (8-4). The Gophers and Buckeyes will clash on Friday and Saturday in Columbus, making up a series that was postponed last month due to COVID-19 issues within the Ohio State program.
Aside from Wisconsin, Ohio State is the only team to have beaten the Gophers this season. The teams split a series at Ridder Arena to begin the season, with Minnesota winning 4-0 on Nov. 21 and Ohio State winning 2-1 on Nov. 22.
“They’re a very good team, very fast, they’re aggressive, they play that style, they take away your time and space. So you have to be strong on the puck, you have to support it well,” Frost said. “We know that, not necessarily from the first series but more from just playing them over the last number of years, so it should be another real solid game, and looking forward to that.”
In recent years, the Buckeyes have joined the ranks of the top teams in women’s college hockey, thanks in large part to coach Nadine Muzerall, a former Gophers player and a Frost assistant coach until 2016, when she took over in Columbus.
The Buckeyes have been stiff competition for Minnesota in the recent past, beating the Gophers 4-3 in overtime last season to knock them out of the WCHA Final Faceoff. The WCHA rivals were scheduled to meet in the NCAA Tournament before it was wiped out due to the ongoing pandemic.
“I had been saying for years that they were kind of a sleeping giant in women’s hockey, and until Nadine got there, they really were kind of quiet,” Frost said.
The Buckeyes are a formidable challenger, and if the Gophers are going to return to their winning ways this weekend on the road, it will take more than just their skill.
“You can tell there’s a little bit of a chip on their shoulders,” Frost said of his players. “They certainly were not happy about our last results, and knowing that we’ve got another great opponent here this weekend, we just have to be better from all of us down.”