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Gophers head to Wisconsin with chip on their shoulders

The second-ranked Gophers are coming off a 4-1 loss to St. Cloud State in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game in Andover, Minn., on Nov. 7.

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Wisconsin goalie Kennedy Blair (29) gets a glove on Minnesota Gophers Grace Zumwinkle's (12) shot in the first period of a WCHA Final Faceoff game at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis on March 6, 2021.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press file photo

ST. PAUL -- The University of Minnesota women’s hockey team was finding its former mojo last January when they traveled down to Mankato and beat Minnesota State 7-2 on Jan. 14 to start a home-and-home weekend series.

The next day in Minneapolis, the Mavericks ended their 53-game losing streak against the Gophers with a 5-4 overtime victory at Ridder Arena. It sent a bracing message, and the Gophers responded by sweeping a weekend series against Wisconsin to start a 12-0-1 streak they took into the WCHA tournament championship game.

Less than a year later, the second-ranked Gophers find themselves in a similar position, coming off a 4-1 loss to St. Cloud State in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game in Andover, Minn., on Nov. 7. The win ended the Huskies’ 61-game winless streak against Minnesota, and now the Gophers again have third-ranked Wisconsin on deck this weekend in Madison.

“It’s going to set us forward or set us back,” fifth-year senior Taylor Heise said this week, “and I’m hoping that we choose to set ourselves forward.”

Yes, Minnesota (9-1-1) goes to Wisconsin (10-2-0) with a chip on its shoulder.

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“We took one day off,” Heise said. “We’re going to come back and prove that we can stick with it for two days this week.”

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St. Cloud State (7-8-0) stopped Minnesota with a trapping defense designed to gum up the works of one of the nation’s top-scoring teams. Wisconsin will try to beat the Gophers at their own game, and are fully capable. Just two years removed from an NCAA title, the Badgers returned a large handful of players who took last season off to play internationally: blue liners Caroline Harvey and Natalie Buchbinder, and forwards Lacey Eden, Jesse Compher (a transfer from Boston University) and Britta Curl.

That doesn’t include forward Marianne Picard, who only played six games last season because of a leg injury, and freshman defender Vivian Jungels, last season’s Ms. Minnesota Hockey at Edina.

“They’ve got the offensive firepower to make you pay when you make a mistake,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said, “and that’s what the top, top teams have, the difference-makers that, when you make a mistake, it can be in the back of your net before you can blink.”

The Gophers rank third nationally in team scoring with a 4.8-goal average. The Badgers are first, averaging 5.6 a game and led by Eden’s team-leading 10 goals (10-9—19). Sophomore Abbie Murphy, who played for Team USA at the Olympics last season, leads Minnesota with nine goals among 16 points, followed by Olympic teammate Grace Zumwinkle (7-10—17) and Kazmaier Award winner Heise (6-10—16).

But Heise isn’t worried about the Gophers’ offense. Further, the Badgers are surrendering only 1.17 goals a game, fourth nationally, while the Gophers are surrendering 2.1.

“It’s going to be won in the defensive zone, and in the battles in the neutral zone, as well,” Heise said. “We’ve been working on a lot of that in practice. I’m excited to see our offensive strides kick in, but our defensive portion of the game is going to be where it’s won.”

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
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