Bowl games for college football programs serve as a nice reward to end the season, usually in a warm-weather locale where teams will spend a handful of days and take in the sights and sounds.
The Gophers women's hockey team had its bowl experience of sorts last week, spending four days, including Thanksgiving, in Nashville for the Country Classic. Joining Minnesota in the four-team event were Boston College, Harvard and Wisconsin, with an East vs. West format over two days.
While the Gophers ended up with a 2-2 tie against No. 5 Boston College and a 4-0 victory over Harvard, coach Brad Frost wanted his team to bond off the ice, too, and take in what Music City had to offer. The Gophers spent time on Broadway, took in a Nashville Predators game and played the role of tourists before getting down to business.
"They all bought cowboy hats, and at our skate, they all had cowboy hats on top of their helmets," Frost said of his players.
"We want our program to be one of experiences. We want to play good hockey and try to win national championships, but we want to take them on some pretty special experiences that they may not be able to do just on their own. Nashville was just that type of trip."
Sydney Scobee, the Gophers' senior goalie, appreciated the experience.
"It was a blast," she said. "Just a different atmosphere and environment."
When it came to playing hockey, Scobee made sure the Gophers gave a strong showing. In the tie against Boston College, she stopped 27 of 29 shots, giving up two shorthanded goals. Against Harvard, she had a 21-save shutout. Those performances earned her WCHA goalie of the week honors and NCAA Hockey's No. 3 star of the week. She called the on-ice experience a success, "for the most part."
"That 2-2 tie in the end kind of stung a little bit, but it's not the end of the world," Scobee said. "We came out against Harvard really well."
Frost agreed, lamenting the opportunity lost against Boston College. The tie, coupled with Wisconsin's two wins in Nashville, dropped Minnesota (14-1-3) from No. 1 to No. 2 in the national polls behind the Badgers (16-1-1).
"Outshoot them 15-1 in the third and 4-1 in the overtime," Frost said of the tie with Boston College. "We had some great chances, and I wish we would have found a way to get one there. Overall, pretty happy with the weekend."
The focus now for the Gophers turns to Minnesota State Mankato, their opponent for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum Game at Dakotah! Ice Center in Prior Lake at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. After facing the Mavericks, the Gophers will be off until Jan. 4.
"It's that time of year where it's been a grind for over two months," Frost said. "We've played a lot of hockey and a lot of really good hockey. We certainly want to finish it off well."