This weekend, rivals Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota will face off in their first series of the season. These two teams have a lot of history, and despite it being early, there’s a lot to play for. What’s to be expected from the weekend?
Emotions at Play
There will be a lot of emotions involved in this series. The Gophers are coming off a surprising loss, having been shut out by Bemidji State last Saturday. The Bulldogs are on a roll; they’ve yet to give up a game this season. Minnesota will be looking to gain their momentum back, while Duluth needs to keep theirs going.
The polls will also be in the minds of both teams. The Gophers held on to second in SB Nation’s rankings, while the Bulldogs have bulldozed their way up to #4. The defending national champs can’t really afford to slip this early in the season, while Duluth wants to keep pace and maintain their spot in the top 5.
Offense is Key
While the Gophers have been generating decent offense this season, they’re definitely missing last year’s star seniors Hannah Brandt and Amanda Kessel. Brittni Mowat of Bemidji State had an incredible series versus Minnesota - it won her WCHA defensive player of the week honors - but even when facing defenders of her caliber, Minnesota needs to be able to find the back of the net.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs are coming off of two weeks with star players getting hat tricks. In week one, Ashleigh Brykaliuk scored all three goals that would lead to a tie against Boston College. In week two, it was Lara Stalder with the hatty. In last weekend’s series, the Bulldogs scored nine goals in two games. They’ll be hoping to keep that fire going to keep up with what is traditionally one of the better offensive teams in the conference.
History on Minnesota’s Side
The Bulldogs have not had a win versus the Gophers in their last nineteen games, and have a 29-49-7 all time record against Minnesota. Minnesota also has an advantage in this series because the makeup of this Bulldogs team is very similar to last season’s. Minnesota’s juniors and seniors know Duluth’s team quite intimately, but this year’s Gophers are a different team than they were last season.
This early season face-off between two rivals will undoubtedly be entertaining. The series kicks off at Ridder Arena at 6 p.m. CST on Friday.