U women's hockey team ranked No. 1 in the nation

Three-time defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth lost twice over the weekend, vaulting the Gophers into the top spot in the latest USCHO poll. But will they stay there? Find out what coaches across the country think in exclusive interviews with Goldensports.Net

Minnesota-Duluth hockey coach Shannon Miller has said this is going to be a rebuilding year for her Bulldogs. But when you win three consecutive national championships, you take those statements in stride.

Maybe not anymore. The Bulldogs opened the season losing twice to Minnesota State University, Mankato, knocking the Bulldogs out of the top spot in the latest U.S. College Hockey Online poll.

The benefactor of those losses? The University of Minnesota.

The Golden Gophers completed exhibition play with three wins, including two against the Oval X-Treme Friday and Saturday, moving into the top spot in the polls in the process. The Bulldogs dropped to fifth in the polls – an unfamiliar spot for the women's college hockey power.

"I think this year is going to be one of the most interesting as far as finding out who the top teams in the nation are," said Gophers coach Laura Halldorson earlier this season. "There are so many teams that have the potential to be the best, I think it's going to be an interesting race."

Of the top 10, four are from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association: Minnesota (No. 1), UMD (No. 5), Wisconsin (No. 6) and MSU (No. 10). Ohio State also received votes in the poll.

The wins vaulted the Mavericks into the top 10 in the nation for the first time in its history.

The ECAC features three teams in the top 10 – No. 2 Dartmouth; No. 3 Harvard; and No. 7 St. Lawrence.

St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan knows there are going to be a lot of changes in the polls this season.

"Women's college hockey is improving, and we are all going to knock each other off as the season goes," said Flanagan. "It's going to be a dogfight."

During the 2003-04 campaign, the Gophers will face five ranked teams: No. 6 Wisconsin (10/25-26, 2/13-14), No. 10 MSU (11/22-23, 1/24-25), No. 5 UMD (1/9-10, 2/28-29), No. 9 Mercyhurst (1/16-17) and No. 2 Dartmouth (2/7-8).

"I know one thing, we aren't going to know who the real No. 1 is until the Frozen Four is complete," said Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak. "This year more than any year, I think things are wide open."

The Golden Gophers start their regular season with a WCHA series against Ohio State, this weekend Oct. 17-18, in Ridder Arena. Both games are slated for a 7:05 p.m. start.

USCHO ONLINE POLL

1 Minnesota (9) 0-0-0 143 3

2 Dartmouth (5) 0-0-0 136 2

3 Harvard (1) 0-0-0 111 4

4 Providence 0-0-0 104 5

5 Minnesota-Duluth 0-2-0 86 1

6 Wisconsin 2-0-0 75 6

7 St. Lawrence 0-0-0 62 7

8 New Hampshire 0-0-0 53 8

9 Mercyhurst 0-0-0 25 10

10 Minnesota State 2-0-0 19 NR

Others Receiving Votes: Princeton 9, Connecticut 1, Ohio State 1

Matt Krumrie covers Gophers hockey for Goldensports.Net. He can be reached at Gopherhockeyinsider@yahoo.com

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