WCHA Final Face-Off Preview
Conference title is on the line this weekend in Grand Forks.
Minnesota Gophers (31-2-4/22-2-4-2 WCHA)
How they got here: The Gophers swept Minnesota State last weekend in their best-of-three quarterfinal series, defeating the Mavericks 10-0 and 5-1. The match-up heavily favored Minnesota, which outshot Minnesota State 90-56 on the weekend. Dani Cameranesi posted a six-point night in the big 10-0 win, and Maryanne Menefee totaled three goals and seven points on the weekend.
Key Players: Forward Hannah Brandt was just named the WCHA’s Player of the Year for the second-straight season, and with 31 goals and 67 points in 36 games, she is second in the nation in scoring. Sophomore defenseman Lee Stecklein is also one to watch, as she’s provided a steadying presence on the Gophers’ blue line all season.
Strengths/Weaknesses: Minnesota is the only team in the league averaging more than four goals per game at 4.62, so offense is certainly an area of strength. The Gophers also lead the WCHA with a 30.6 percent power-play efficiency. One potential area of weakness is their play early on in games. Minnesota was outshot 15-3 by the Mavericks in the first period last Saturday, so slow starts will be something to watch for.
Why they’ll win it: The Gophers play at a very high pace and do a really good job of generating chances. They make plays with a purpose, and that serves them well against a field of teams with notably strong defenses.