Three Gophers women's hockey players are among the 10 candidates for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, the USA Hockey Foundation announced on Thursday.

Junior forward Hannah Brandt, sophomore forward Dani Cameranesi and senior defenseman Rachel Ramsey from Minnesota are on the list as is North Dakota junior goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie of Warroad, Minn. It's considered the top award in women's college hockey.

Brandt leads the Gophers — and is second in the nation — with 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists), Cameranesi is second on the team with 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists). Ramsey leads the defensive corps that is giving up just 1.20 goals per game and also has 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists).

The three finalists will be named next Thursday. The winner will be announced on March 21 at the McNamara Alumni Center as part of the women's Frozen Four hosted by Minnesota at Ridder Arena.

The last Gopher to win the award was Amanda Kessel in 2013. The last Minnesota native to win was Krissy Wendell in 2005.

JASON GONZALEZ

U women open playoffs

The Gophers women's hockey team will opens its best-of-three, WCHA first-round playoff series with Minnesota State Mankato at 7 p.m. Friday at Ridder Arena.

No. 2-ranked Minnesota (29-2-4) won the regular-season conference title with a 22-2-4-2 record, the Mavericks (3-30-1) finished eighth at 1-26-1 and lost four times to the Gophers by a combined score of 23-5.

Minnesota State Mankato, which has lost its past seven games, leads the nation with an average of 11.4 penalty minutes per game.

The Gophers, who are 10-0-2 in their past 12 home games, have the nation's top power play, converting at a 31.1 percent rate.

The Gophers, who are the three-time defending playoff champions, will be missing Milica McMillen, one of their top defensemen.

She received a one-game suspension from the WCHA after her game misconduct for contact to the head in Minnesota's 4-2 win over Bemidji State on Saturday.

U swimmers struggle

The Gophers had a difficult Day 2 at the Big Ten men's swimming and diving meet at Iowa City, falling from a tie to third to sixth place with 132 points with two days left.

Only senior CJ Smith advanced to Thursday night's three individual swimming finals — and just barely. He was the eighth seed in the 500-yard freestyle after the preliminaries and he finished eighth (4:18.60). Teammate Michael Nunan won the consolation final to place ninth.

Junior Manny Pollard of the Gophers placed seventh in 1-meter diving (347.90 points and the 400 medley relay also took seventh (3:10.49).

Michigan was well on its way to a fifth consecutive team title with 281 points, 70 ahead of second-place Ohio State.

Etc.

• Senior forward Madison Gendreau of Concordia (Moorhead) was named the MIAC women's hockey player of the year. Senior forward Carolyn Draayer of Gustavus received the Sheila Brown Award, given to a senior for long-term contributions to her program and for sportsmanship. Terry Mannor of St. Mary's was selected the coach of the year.

• The No. 13 Gophers softball team (13-1), which has tied last season's best start in program history, will try to build on it this weekend in the Citrus Classic in Orlando. It will face Mississippi State at 12:15 p.m. Friday and James Madison at 2:30 p.m. The Bulldogs are 13-2 and coming off a 5-4, eight-inning loss to Alabama Birmingham on Tuesday. James Madison is 5-4.

• After going 0-7 against nationally rated Houston and Texas, the Gophers baseball team will try to break its losing streak in a three-game series against Florida Gulf Coast (5-4-1) starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Orlando.

• The Gophers will compete in the Big Ten men's and women's indoor track and field championships starting Friday in Geneva, Ohio. The men finished in sixth place last season, the women fourth.