The Gophers women’s hockey team, ranked No. 3 in the United States College Hockey Online preseason poll, opens its season with a nonconference weekend series against Merrimack at Ridder Arena. The first game starts at 7 p.m. Friday, the second at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Last season the Gophers went 26-8-5, losing to Clarkson in the semifinals of the Women’s Frozen Four. But this is a much different team. Missing are the top six scorers who scored 80 goals — all of them either graduated or are taking this year off to play for the U.S. or Canada Olympic teams.

Co-captain Sydney Baldwin, a defenseman, is the leading scorer back. She had two goals and 14 assists for 16 points. Caitlin Reilly is the top goal-scorer back; she had eight goals.

“There’s a lot of goals we lost,,” Baldwin said. “You have to make it up somewhere and I think that everyone has to put in a little bit more and participate in the scoring and making offensive plays.”

Coach Brad Frost does have an experienced goalie. Sidney Peters was 25-8-4 with a 1.66 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. She had eight shutouts.

The Gophers also have a strong incoming class, led by forward Grace Zumwinkle, named the WCHA’s preseason freshman of the year. She had 48 goals for Breck as a senior. The league’s coaches also picked Minnesota to win the conference title.

Merrimack, which has five Minnesotans on its roster, beat Boston University 2-1 last Saturday in its season opener.

Big test for U soccer

The Gophers soccer team (5-2-3, 1-1-1 Big Ten) plays at No. 16 Rutgers (8-0-2, 2-0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Scarlet Knights have given up only one goal this season — that was in a 2-1 victory over Illinois in their most recent game. Rutgers goalkeeper Casey Murphy has made 30 saves this season and has nine shutouts.

Senior forward Colby Ciarrocca, the daughter of Gophers football offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, leads the Scarlet Knights offense with six goals and 14 points overall.

The Gophers lead the Big Ten in goals with 25 and assists with 28. Sydney Squires has a team-high nine goals.

U volleyball on road

The No. 4 Gophers volleyball team (12-1, 1-1 Big Ten) plays at No. 8 Nebraska (9-3, 2-0) at 5 p.m. Friday.

Freshman Stephanie Samedy of Minnesota leads the conference with 4.38 kills per set and junior setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson with 12.2 assists per set.

The Cornhuskers are coming off a big road win at Penn State. They are second in the Big Ten in kills and third in digs.