The Gophers women’s hockey team will begin its season this weekend with a familiar ritual. Before Friday’s series opener against Colgate, it will raise a banner, this one commemorating last season’s WCHA regular-season championship. As the Gophers mark the 20th anniversary of the program’s first national title in 1999-2000, a veteran roster hopes to bring another banner to Ridder Arena: An eighth national crown.
When: Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, 4 p.m.
Where: Ridder Arena
Series preview: The No. 2 Gophers warmed up for the season with a pair of exhibition victories last weekend, outscoring the Toronto Junior Aeros and Minnesota Whitecaps by a combined 14-3. Colgate, which received votes in this week’s USCHO.com poll, is 1-0 after defeating Holy Cross 4-1 last Saturday. The last time the Raiders played at Ridder Arena, they lost to Clarkson 2-1 in overtime in the 2018 NCAA championship game. They finished 23-10-5 last season and are looking for their first victory against the Gophers, who hold a 4-0 edge in the series.
About the Gophers
The defense: The Gophers have a compact roster this season, with only 11 forwards and seven defenseman, plus four goalies. What they lack in numbers, they make up for in talent — particularly in the defensive corps, which coach Brad Frost said will be the foundation of the team.
Six defenders return from last season’s team that finished 32-6-1 and lost to Wisconsin in the NCAA title game. The lone newcomer, freshman Madeline Wethington, was named preseason WCHA rookie of the year. The former Blake star and Ms. Hockey honoree had 53 points in 28 games last season, adding more firepower to a defense that includes Emily Brown (four goals, 23 assists in 2018-19) and Patti Marshall (two, 19).
“That’s where it starts for us,” Frost said. “That’s our most veteran group, and we’re looking for them to take even another jump here this year.”
The forwards: With seven of the Gophers’ top 10 scorers returning, Frost predicted it will be “fun to mix and match” a potent group of forwards. Junior Grace Zumwinkle (25, 16) leads the pack, with sophomores Taylor Heise (13, 22) and Amy Potomak (11, 20) right behind.
Frost was impressed with the Zumwinkle-Heise combination in last weekend’s exhibition games, though he said Zumwinkle would benefit from a little more swagger. Her 25 goals were second most in the WCHA last season, and Frost says she can be better.
“We’re trying to get her a little more mean,” he said. “She just has to make that change, to say instead of being a really good player, I want to be the best. Then she has to take it into her hands to do that.”
The goalies: Sydney Scobee and Alex Gulstene shared the workload last season, with Gulstene starting 23 games and Scobee 16. They are joined by freshman Makayla Pahl of Rochester, a member of the U.S. under-18 team that won the world championship in 2018.
Frost expects to play all three early in the season, with the veterans getting the first crack at winning the job. Gulstene went 20-3 last season, with a goals-against average of 1.69 and save percentage of .921; Scobee was 12-3-1, with a GAA of 1.76 and save percentage of .927. Frost is hoping to redshirt another freshman goaltender, Olivia King, who led Brainerd/Little Falls to a second-place finish in the Class 2A state tournament last spring.