Gophers Set to Face Japan, British Columbia

Go Gophers! Senior assistant captain Sarah Davis
Go Gophers!
Senior assistant captain Sarah Davis
Go Gophers!
 Minnesota vs. Team Japan/British Columbia
 Sept. 26 / 7 p.m. Minnesota vs. Team Japan
 Sept. 27 / 7 p.m. Minnesota vs. British Columbia
 Location Ridder Arena
 Tickets Free Admission
 Travel Local Weather | Parking | Preferred Hotels
 Live Video Team Japan | British Columbia
 Free Audio Team Japan | British Columbia
 Live Stats Team Japan | British Columbia
 Social Media @MNWomensHockey | Facebook

Sept. 25, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS – The No. 1 Golden Gopher women’s hockey team is slated to host two exhibition games in its final preseason tune-up before beginning its defense of its back-to-back national titles. Minnesota hosts Team Japan on Thursday and the University of British Columbia on Friday. Both games will be played at Ridder Arena, and admission is free.

Minnesota returns 14 players from last year’s national championship team while losing six seniors. The Gophers are also without 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein, who are currently training with the U.S. Women’s National Team in hopes of competing for Team USA at the 2014 Olympic Games. Nevertheless, Minnesota looks to pick up where it left off last season, riding a 49-game winning streak in search of the program’s sixth national championship.

Exhibition Action: Team Japan and British Columbia

The Gophers' first preseason test will be Team Japan at Ridder Arena on Thursday night. The Japan National Team has qualified for the 2014 Olympic Games, which marks the team’s second all-time Olympic appearance (first appearance in 1998). Team Japan is currently participating in a five-game tour of the United States, facing Wisconsin (L, 3-0), St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth, British Columbia and the Gophers.

Minnesota’s second exhibition game pits the Gophers against the University of British Columbia on Friday evening. UBC took third in the Canada West regular season standings but went on to finish first in the postseason last year. Tatiana Rafter led the Thunderbirds with 23 points in 28 games, and Danielle Dube was the league’s top goaltender (.943 save percentage).

Season Outlook: Who's Back?

The Gophers return six of their top 10 scorers from last season, led by Western Collegiate Hockey Association Preseason Player of the Year Hannah Brandt. In her rookie season, Brandt was second on the team with 82 points (33 goals-49 assists). Minnesota also returns five additional players who surpassed the 25-point mark last season in Maryanne Menefee (38 points), Rachael Bona (32 points), Kelly Terry (32 points), Rachel Ramsey (29 points) and Milica McMillen (26 points).

Minnesota’s blue line will look significantly different than last season with the graduation of Megan Bozek, Mira Jalosuo, and Katie Frischmann and the temporary loss of Lee Stecklein to the U.S. National Team. Senior Baylee Gillanders, junior Rachel Ramsey and sophomore Milica McMillen will anchor the Gophers’ defensive corps, while freshmen defensemen Kelsey Cline and Paige Haley also will contribute immediately. In addition, sophomore Brook Garzone and junior Jordyn Burns will likely see action at the blue line for the Gophers.

The Gophers will be young in goal, led by sophomore Amanda Leveille, who saw action in seven games with three starts during the 2012-13 season. Junior Shyler Sletta also returns in net, and freshman Sidney Peters is a newcomer with U.S. Under-18 Team and USA Hockey Development Camp experience. The trio will be tasked with filling the void left by the graduation of three-time All-American goaltender Noora Räty.

Season Outlook: Who's New?

Seven freshmen join the Gophers for their rookie seasons. In addition to Peters, Cline and Haley, rookie forwards Dani Cameranesi, Kate Flug, Kate Schipper and Megan Wolfe will debut in Maroon and Gold this year. Six of the new players hail from Minnesota; Peters is a native of Geneva, Ill., but attended the North American Hockey Academy in Stowe, Vt.

Cameranesi, the 2013 Minnesota Ms. Hockey, was named WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year. She led Blake to the Minnesota Class A State championship with 95 points as a senior. Flug was a three-time all-state honoree at Roseville Area High School who played with Bethany Brausen and Lee Stecklein as a freshman. Schipper led Breck to three Minnesota Class A State Tournament appearances and won a state title with Gopher teammate Milica McMillen in 2012. Wolfe was the 2013 Pioneer Press Player of the Year after recording 71 points as a senior at Eagan High School.

Cameranesi, Flug, Peters, Schipper and Wolfe all have experience with the U.S. Under-18 team at the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships. Blueliners Cline and Haley participated in USA Hockey national development camps as well. Cline played for Bloomington Jefferson and earned all-state honors as a senior, while Haley was a four-time all-state honoree at Red Wing High School.

Looking Ahead: Season-Opener and Home-Opener

Following their exhibition contests this week, the Gophers begin the regular season on the road at Colgate Oct. 4-5. Minnesota then hosts WCHA rival Wisconsin in its home-opening series at Ridder Arena Oct. 11-12.

Note: Fans attending Friday night's game against British Columbia should be aware that Minnesota's Homecoming Parade also begins at 7 p.m. Please plan accordingly for delays and street closures.

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