Weekend Preview: Gophers Host Ohio State Saturday and Sunday
Amanda Kessel leads the team with 38 points

Dec. 7, 2011

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The Golden Gopher women's hockey team returns home to Ridder Arena for a Saturday-Sunday series against Ohio State. Both games will start at 2:00 p.m.

THe University of Minnesota will be a busy campus this weekend. With men's basketball, women's basketball, men's hockey and volleyball also hosting competitions on campus this Saturday, and women's basketball hosting a game on Sunday afternoon, fans should allow plenty of time to get to campus and find parking this weekend. Women's hockey fans are encouraged to park in the Fourth Street Ramp as the University Avenue Ramp will be reserved for men's basketball season ticket holders.

On Sunday, fans are invited to come early and watch some of the Gopher greats at the annual Alumni Game at 10:30 a.m. At this time, there are about 25 former Gophers registered to come out and play in the game. They will play two 30-minute halves.

The Gophers are happy to be returning to the friendly confines of Ridder Arena after two weekends on the road. Minnesota is undefeated at home this season, winning all 10 games it has played at Ridder Arena, while going 5-3 in away games.

Minnesota is listed at No. 2 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine national polls again this week. Ohio State is not ranked in the top 10, but is receiving votes in both polls.

The Gophers have been winning big this season, and are fourth in the nation in scoring margin, winning by an average of 3.44 goals. Minnesota has outscored its opponents 84-22 in 18 games this season, including a 48-16 margin against WCHA opponents.

Minnesota's first line of Amanda Kessel, Jen Schoullis and Sarah Erickson, has accounted for 40 of the team's 84 goals this season. They are the top three goal scorers and the top three point producers on the team. Kessel leads the way with 18 goals and 20 assists fro 38 points. She ranks third in the WCHA and is tied for seventh in the nation in points per game. Schoullis has 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points, and also ranks in the top 10 nationally, coming in 10th in the nation and fifth in the WCHA in points per game. Erickson has nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points, and ranks 13th in the WCHA in points per game.

Minnesota is third in the nation and first in the WCHA on the penalty kill. The Gophers are 63-71 (88.8 percent) this season. The Gophers are averaging just 9.0 penalty minutes per game. Wisconsin is the only WCHA team averaging fewer penalty minutes per game (7.8).

Minnesota has the fewest number of goals allowed in WCHA play, with just 16 goals allowed in 12 WCHA games and 22 goals allowed overall. Minnesota ranks first in the nation and first in the WCHA in scoring defense, allowing an average of 1.22 goals per game.

Junior defenseman Megan Bozek was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week on Dec. 7 for her performance against North Dakota Dec. 2-3. Bozek had two assists in Friday's 7-2 Gopher victory, including the assist on Jen Schoullis' game-winning goal. She had a plus/minus rating of +2 on Friday, and blocked two shots on the weekend. Bozek earned WCHA weekly honors for the second time in her career after earning WCHA Rookie of the Week honors once in her freshman season.

Bozek is tied for first nationally and leads the WCHA in scoring by defensemen with 21 points on the season. She ranks first in the WCHA and second nationally in points per game by a defenseman with an average of 1.17 per game this season. Bozek has eight goals on the season, including three gamewinners. She has surpassed her season totals for goals from her freshman and sophomore seasons, as she scored six goals in each of her first two seasons with the Gophers. Bozek has 68 career points to rank eighth on the Minnesota all-time scoring list for defensemen, and needs just one point to tie Lyndsay Wall (69 points, 2002-05) for seventh place. She ranks sixth Gopher history in goals by a defenseman with 20.

Senior defenseman Anne Schleper is nearing a scoring milestone. She has 98 career points (29-69-98) after adding two assists in Minnesota's 7-2 victory over North Dakota last Friday. If Schleper reaches the 100-point mark, she will be in good company. Only two other defensemen in Gopher women's hockey history have reached the 100-point milestone: Courtney Kennedy, who had 112 career points from 1998-2001, and Winny Brodt, who tallied 134 points from 1998-2003.

Junior goalie Noora Räty has started 17 of 18 games for the Gophers this season. She has 306 saves on the season, with 21 goals allowed in the first 18 games. Räty leads the nation in goals against average at 1.29. She's second in the WCHA (sixth nationally) in save percentage at .936. She has three shutouts so far this season.

Freshman defenseman Rachel Ramsey ranks third in the WCHA in points per game by a freshman. She's averaging 0.67 points per game this season.

Ohio State is 9-5-2 this season, including a 6-5-1 mark in WCHA games. Last weekend, the Buckeyes faced Niagara at home, and tied 1-1 in the first game before winning 5-2 in the second game of the series.

The leading scorers for the Buckeyes are Natalie Spooner with 15 goals and five assists for 20 points, and Laura McIntosh with six goals and 14 assists for 20 points. Sophomore goalies Lisa Steffes and Chelsea Knapp are splitting time in the net, with Steffes playing 10 games and Knapp playing in seven. Steffes has a 2.60 GAA and 90.6 save percentage while Knapp has a 3.70 GAA and 86.0 save percentage.

Nate Handrahan is the head coach at Ohio State and is in his first season there. The assistant coaches are Scott Spencer and Candice Moxley.

Four players on the OSU roster hail from Minnesota. Forward Taylor Kuehl is from Minnetrista and went to Mound-Westonka H.S., Kelly Wild is from Mendota Heights and Cretin-Derham Hall, Melissa Feste hails from Bloomington and Eden Prairie H.S., and Madison Marcotte is from White Bear Lake and attended White Bear Lake H.S.

Minnesota holds a lopsided 46-7-1 all-time record against Ohio State since the teams first met in the 1999-2000 season.  Last season, the Gophers and Buckeyes met six times, with Minnesota winning all six games. The Gophers won by scores of 6-0 and 2-1 (OT) at Ridder Arena in December 2010. In January 2011, Minnesota swept the series 4-2 and 8-1 in Columbus. The Gophers and Buckeyes met again in the WCHA First Round, with Minnesota winning 4-2 and 3-2 to advance to the WCHA Final Faceoff.




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