Bethany Brausen grew up in Roseville, with her regular youth hockey practices being held outdoors at the John Rose Oval. Now that she is captain of the Gophers women’s hockey team, she can’t wait for the first outdoor game in program history Friday.
The two-time defending national champion Gophers face Minnesota State Mankato in the opener of the Hockey City Classic at TCF Bank Stadium.
“Some of the players are dreading the cold a little bit,” Brausen said. “We’ve got a player from Oklahoma [sophomore forward Brook Garzone] — I’m sure she’s just absolutely horrified of this experience. But we have so many Minnesotans , so many Canadians [four]. Everyone has hockey at their root.”
The Gophers and Mavericks had planned to play outdoors in Elk River on Saturday as part of Fox Sports North’s annual “Hockey Day in Minnesota” event. But the Gophers jumped at the chance to play in the football stadium, when plans came together for this event.
The forecast calls for a temperature of 9 degrees (and a windchill of minus-2) for the opening faceoff at 4:30 p.m. Coach Brad Frost had his players practice at TCF Bank Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday, knowing Wednesday would give his team the best chance to simulate Friday’s weather conditions.
The Gophers swept Minnesota State Mankato (9-15) in November and are 63-3-3 against the Mavericks all-time. But the Mavericks roster is filled with Minnesotans and Canadians, too, so the ice will be covered with players returning to their roots.
Besides adjusting to the elements, the top-ranked Gophers (20-1-1) will be trying to bounce back from a rare disappointment. They are coming off a shootout loss to Ohio State last Saturday. Officially, that went down as a tie, but Minnesota went through nine shootout rounds without a goal before the Buckeyes snuck one past goaltender Amanda Leveille.
“We weren’t real happy with Saturday, from our staff all the way down to our players,” Frost said. “For the first time in 70-some odd games, we were flat for the majority of the game and it ended up costing us.
“It was a good learning experience for our team.”