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Gophers Hockey: Minnesota returns home with rare losing streak

After losing nine total games the last four seasons, injuries and tough competition have Minnesota losing four of its last six.

Matt Dewkett

It took Kate Schipper until her senior season to reach a double digit number of losses in her collegiate career. Not in one year. Total.

So this experience is new for her and everyone on the two-time defending national champions.

Minnesota, four years removed from achieving the pursuit of perfection every team strives to achieve, is in a losing streak every other team faces at one point. The Gophers (16-5-2) have lost four of the last six games - matching last season’s total number of losses - dating back to an 8-2 loss at Wisconsin on December 4th.

That includes being swept in two games last weekend at Minnesota Duluth.

“I don’t think we did a ton of thing wrongs, especially Saturday. Looking back it’s more of execution,” Schipper said. “I think executing at a higher level and everyone doing a little better will help the entire team.”

Despite the losses, the Gophers remain ranked fourth. Trying keep the mood light in practice this week prior to facing Ohio State at Ridder Arena, Schipper and the rest of her Minnesota teammates have been going back to the basics. Working hard. Nothing too serious.

There’s no one reason for the losing streak. Head coach Brad Frost preached about the process, not the results. The Gophers came back to tie UMD twice both games before the Bulldogs pulled away.

“The third period (Friday) they played great, but against a really good opponent like Duluth it was too little, too late,” he said.

In each of the last six games Minnesota has given up at least three goals. The team’s average went from 1.24 goals per game to 2.04.

On offense the Gophers have had to deal with injuries and players out for national team duty. Already without freshman Alex Woken due to injury, Minnesota lost Dani Cameranesi, its leading goal scorer, after the first period of Saturday’s loss. Cameranesi had just came back after missing four games.

Frost was unsure when Cameranesi would be able to return.

“It’s been a challenge for us here this year trying to find some consistent line combinations and people to score. That’s what we got,” said Frost. “We have to make the best of it.”

For Schipper, playing a home game at Ridder Arena for the first time in 54 days will be helpful. The Gophers face an old friend in Buckeyes head coach Nadine Muzerall, who spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach at Minnesota.

Already having surpassed its 2015-16 win total, Ohio State appears to be one of several WCHA teams on the rise. The result is more upsets, tighter standings and a move away from the conference being the Gophers and Badgers in one tier and everyone else fighting for third.

Minnesota sits in second place in the WCHA, seven points behind Wisconsin with 40. UMD is only one point behind the Gophers in third place while North Dakota has 33 points.

“I think it goes back to coaching too. With Nadine at Ohio State, and you see at Mankato with (John Harrington) behind their bench, these new great coaches up and down the teams,” said Pannek. “Teams are getting better and better and closing down those gaps.”

Pannek who finished with four points last weekend and leads the nation with 48 points, has a streak of her own. She has a point in 19 straight games. The other streak?

“It reminds me that I hate losing,” she said.

Minnesota and Ohio State play at Ridder Arena Friday at 7 pm CT and Saturday at 2 pm CT.

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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --