MINNEAPOLIS — Sometimes on a sunny Friday, you just want to leave work early in the worst way. On this particular Friday, the Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team got to leave work early, in the worst way.
Roughly eight hours before the third-ranked Gophers and their archrivals, the top-ranked Wisconsin Badgers, were set to face off at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, the WCHA women’s league announced the series was postponed until sometime in the future.
“The postponement was necessitated after positive COVID-19 tests were found within the Badgers’ program,” read a statement released by the conference. “No make-up date has been determined at this time.”
The news came less than a day after the Gophers learned their series at Ohio State, scheduled for Dec. 11-12, is also postponed due to COVID-19 tests within the Buckeyes program. The back-to-back postponements meant that for a time, everything on the Gophers’ initial schedule for the rest of December was over.
But thanks to some quick work by WCHA women’s league commissioner Jennifer Flowers and others at the U of M, the Gophers do not have to get an overly early start to their holiday break. Some schedule shuffling means the Gophers will instead face Minnesota State, Mankato in a home-and-home series, with games on Thursday, Dec. 10 in Mankato and Friday, Dec. 11 at Ridder Arena.
"The message to our team has been to be as flexible and interchangeable as possible, to adapt and adjust and figure it out. We've been treating every day as a gift," Gophers coach Brad Frost said. They learned of positive COVID-19 tests among the Badgers on Thursday morning, and the Wisconsin team did not travel to Minneapolis. "We were still hopeful that they could come out, but it got to a point with them where they had more than one case and it didn't work for them."
The Mavericks' games at Bemidji State scheduled for Dec. 4-5 were also postponed due to the pandemic. Points from all rescheduled games will count in the WCHA standings.
“It has been agreed that any games played this season is a league game and will count in the league standings,” Flowers told The Rink Live. “We’re trying to provide the opportunity to play for those who are able to play.”
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Flowers added that the original goal for the season was to schedule 24 games for each team, but with several games being postponed across the league, they may realistically have some teams who are only able to play 22 games or less. The WCHA’s schedule for the second half of the women’s season is expected to be announced soon.
The Gophers, currently 3-1-0, and Badgers, currently 1-1-0, played for the national title in 2019, with Wisconsin winning. Last season they met four times, with the Badgers winning three of the games and tying once.
The Gophers played at UMD in their first road trip of the season. Frost said they will travel to Mankato the day of the game on Thursday rather than staying the night before the game in a hotel, which is one of many adjustments they have made on road trips.
"Normally we have pregame meals together and that's an exciting time to be together, hang out and eat. We had to get to-go boxes for everything," Frost said. "Players and staff picked them up and just went to their hotel rooms. So it's very different."