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Skylar Vetter emerging as top-ranked Gophers' every night goalie with upset-minded UMD ahead

Minnesota Duluth was a rare team to beat the Gophers twice at Ridder Arena last season, including an upset in the NCAA playoffs that abruptly ended the Minnesota Gophers season.

St. Cloud State vs Minnesota
Sophomore goalie Skylar Vetter started six of the Minnesota Gophers first eight games of the 2022-23 season, as they opened 7-0-1 and she was named the WCHA's goalie of the month for October 2022.
Matt Krohn / Gopher Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — On her way to being a Minnesota Gopher, goalie Skylar Vetter did things the hard way, primarily playing boys high school hockey at Lakeville North, and getting attention from USA Hockey where she stopped pucks for the Americans in a pair of U18 World Championships.

Still, when she got to college, the differences were stark.

“It is a lot different. I would say the biggest thing is checking. I think checking in boys hockey really changes the game, the release, the speed of it, where girls are more creative,” Vetter said a week after backstopping a win and a shootout loss to Ohio State last weekend which vaulted the Gophers to the top of the national polls. “They might skate in close, they might pass at a closer distance. It’s different and obviously last year was a huge adjustment for me. It’s not only girls hockey, but it’s also Division I, top-tier programs.”

UMD vs Minnesota
Surrounded by Bulldogs, Minnesota Gophers forward Ella Huber (26) managed to challenge UMD goalie Emma Soderberg during a game at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis on December 11, 2021.
Bjorn Franke / Gopher Sports

Having started six of the Gophers’ eight games, Vetter is quickly becoming coach Brad Frost’s every night goalie, and has rewarded that faith in her. This week Vetter was named the WCHA’s goaltender of the month for October, heading into a weekend home series versus Minnesota Duluth at Ridder Arena.

“She’s very young but she’s had great experience at the U-18 level and at the boys high school level,” Frost said of Vetter, who turned 19 in May. “She got in some games last year and got her feet wet at the college level. She’s got a mindset about her that she hates getting scored on. Even in practice, if she gets scored on she’ll pull the puck out of the net. That’s just kind of the mentality that you have to have in the WCHA.”

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Vetter is likely to make her first career start versus the Bulldogs on Friday, but that doesn’t mean UMD (7-3-0) is an opponent that means little to her or any of the Gophers (7-0-1). The memories of UMD’s upset win over the Gophers at Ridder in the NCAA tournament last March are still quite raw for many of the team’s veterans. Their coach admits that the sight of the Bulldogs jerseys almost has to make his team’s blood pump a little faster.

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“At the same time, it’s a new year and we need to focus on Friday night, making sure we’re ready to go,” he said.

After upsetting the Gophers in the national playoffs, the Bulldogs went all the way to the NCAA title game where they fell to Ohio State on a late goal. They come to Minneapolis ranked fifth nationally, and in the middle of a ridiculously tough stretch of schedule which has them facing WCHA heavyweights Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota back-to-back-to-back.

"I think regardless of what happened last spring, you're going into a visitor's rink and a really good team — two good teams," Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell said. "It's going to be a battle ... I feel that any time we go to Ridder they're going to bring their best and we're going to bring ours. It's going to be a great weekend of games."

Weekend details

Friday’s game is a 6 p.m. CT start at Ridder Arena, while the Saturday rematch faces off at 2 p.m. The Gophers also have men’s hockey and volleyball at home on Friday night, so U of M officials encourage fans to arrive early as there may be a parking crunch near the arena.

Both games can be streamed on B1G+ and the audio play-by-play is available on GopherSports.com .

The Gophers will face in-state rival St. Cloud State in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7 at the Andover Community Center in Andover, Minnesota. The game, which is sold out, is a benefit for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

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Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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