Gophers women ranked third in preseason poll

The Golden Gophers women's hockey team is gearing up for the 2003-04 season. They open the season ranked third in the nation in the USCHO preseason poll. Find out who the Gophers will have to beat to get back to the Frozen Four. Also, the Gophers found out Monday they will host the 2006 Frozen Four in Minneapolis

The University of Minnesota women's hockey team is ranked third in the preseason U.S. College Hockey Online poll, announced today by USCHO. Minnesota earned four votes for first place, but three-time defending national champions Minnesota-Duluth gained eight first-place votes and the top ranking. Of the top 10, three are from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association: UMD (No. 1), Minnesota (No. 3) and Wisconsin (No. 6). Bemidji State and Ohio State also received votes in the poll.

"Until someone proves they can knock off Duluth, they are the team to beat," said Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson. "But we like the team we have coming back and feel we are ready to take things to the next level."

The Gophers have advanced to the Frozen Four the last two seasons only to come up empty. While Halldorson feels the team has the potential to win the league title and advance to postseason action once again, senior captain Kelsey Bills is determined to get that ring before she graduates.

"We are on a mission, and the only thing that matters this year is winning the title," said Bills. "We are putting aside any individual goals, and anything that might distract us from accomplishing our goal. We have a great team, and we don't want to come up empty once again."

In the 2003-04 campaign, the Maroon and Gold will face three ranked teams: No. 1 UMD (1/9-10, 2/28-29), No. 10 Mercyhurst (1/16-17) and No. 2 Dartmouth (2/7-8).

The Golden Gophers start their season Sunday when they face the Aurora Panthers in an exhibition game at 12 p.m. in Ridder Arena.

Also Monday, the Gophers announced they have been awarded the 2006 Frozen Four. Four teams will convene on March 24 and March 26, 2006 at Mariucci Arena for the showcase event of women's college hockey.

USCHO Preseason Poll

1. Minnesota-Duluth (8) 31-3-2 138 1

2. Dartmouth (2) 27-8-0 129 4

3. Minnesota (4) 27-8-1 119 3

4. Harvard (1) 30-3-1 108 2

5. Providence 24-6-6 88 6

6. Wisconsin 22-8-5 71 5

7. St. Lawrence 22-9-4 59 8

8. New Hampshire 27-7-2 57 7

9. Princeton 20-9-2 20 9

10. Mercyhurst 25-8-1 16 10

Others receiving votes: Bemidji State 8, Brown 6, Ohio State 5, Connecticut 1.

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