Gophers are No. 2 seed in NCAA women’s hockey tournament

The Gophers need one victory to make the 150-mile drive up Interstate 35 to Duluth for the NCAA Women's Frozen Four. To get there, they might need to dispatch a team that's been a thorn in their side and has a strong desire to spend more time in the Twin Ports.

Minnesota Duluth.

The NCAA on Sunday announced the 11-team field for its women's hockey tournament, and the second-seeded Gophers are host to a regional on Thursday and Saturday at Ridder Arena. The Gophers will have a bye into the regional final at 2 p.m. Saturday and will play the winner of Thursday's 6 p.m. game between Minnesota Duluth and Clarkson.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Last year, the Bulldogs upset Minnesota 2-1 in the regional final in Minneapolis on their way to reaching the national championship game.

"It's a good situation to be in, right?" UMD coach Maura Crowell said after the Bulldogs' 2-1 loss to Ohio State in the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals on Friday. "If we are successful … we get to come home."

Ohio State, the defending national champion, is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes (31-5-2) stayed No. 1 in the PairWise Ratings after their 3-1 loss to the Gophers (29-5-3) in the WCHA Final Faceoff title game on Saturday. The Gophers, No. 2 in the PairWise, are 3-1-1 against the Buckeyes this season.

"Hopefully, we'll see them down the road, because if we do, we know that we're at the right place, too," Gophers coach Brad Frost said Saturday.

Ohio State will play the winner of Quinnipiac vs. Penn State. Colgate is the No. 3 seed and will play the winner of Wisconsin vs. Long Island. Yale is the No. 4 seed and will play No. 5 seed Northeastern. All regionals are Thursday and Saturday. The four regional winners will advance to the Frozen Four on March 17 and 19 at AMSOIL Arena.

The Gophers and Minnesota Duluth (25-9-3) have played four times this season, with Minnesota winning three games in regulation and one in overtime. The Gophers have not played Clarkson (29-10-2) this season.

Frost believes his team can build on what it accomplished with the WCHA tournament wins over Wisconsin and Ohio State.

"There was something different about our team this weekend," Frost said Sunday. "We've been waiting to see it, and we saw it both Friday and Saturday. The way that they played, the toughness they showed, the care and concern they had for one another. It was just a total team effort, and it had to be."