The Gophers women’s hockey team was bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament last March, but the surfeit of talent coming back for 2022-23 has Minnesota ranked No. 2 in the first U.S. College Hockey Online poll of the season.
Determined by the votes of 15 voters that includes women’s hockey writers, the poll has Minnesota second behind defending national champion Ohio State, two of four WCHA teams ranked in the Top 5. Wisconsin comes in at No. 3, followed by No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth.
The Bulldogs, featuring Patty Kazmaier Award finalist and Centennial graduate Gabbie Hughes, knocked the Gophers out of the NCAA tournament and advanced to the final, where they were edged by the Buckeyes.
The Gophers return virtually everyone from a team that won the WCHA regular-season championship, compiled a 29-9-1 record and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for the final several weeks of the season. That includes Kazmaier Award winner Taylor Heise, who led runner-up Team USA in scoring at the World Championships last month.
Heise 29 goals and an NCAA-best 66 points last season while centering the Gophers’ top line of Abigail Boreen and Catie Skaja. All are returning this season after combining for 121 regular-season points, best in the nation.
Also returning are Grace Zumwinkle, a sixth-year senior who last winter played for the U.S. Olympic hockey team that won a silver medal in Beijing, and Olympics teammate Abbey Murphy, who scored 18 goals as a freshman before joining the national team.
The Gophers begin their season Oct. 7 against WCHA rival Bemidji State at Ridder Arena.