The Gophers softball team (2-1) plays in the inaugural St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational this weekend.

And elite it is. Minnesota will play four NCAA tournament teams from last year, including defending national champion Florida State.

The schedule: Tennessee, 5-0 and ranked No. 6 in this week’s USA Today/NFCA poll, at 2 p.m. Friday; Notre Dame, 2-2 but coming off a win over No. 5 Washington, at 3 p.m. Saturday followed by the Seminoles, 5-0 and No. 1, at 6:30 p.m., and California, 3-2, at 9 a.m. Sunday. All but the Gophers-Irish game will be live streamed on ESPN3.

“It’s a great tournament, a great test,” Gophers coach Jamie Trachsel said. “…We will be tested in every area. We will rely heavily on our pitching staff and defense to make plays and give our offense a chance to win the game and score some runs.”

U women back on ice

After a weekend off, the No. 1 Gophers women’s hockey team (25-4-1 15-4-1 WCHA) plays Minnesota State Mankato (9-15-5, 3-14-3) at 7 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday at Ridder Arena in its final regular-season series at home. The Gophers’ eight seniors will be honored before the second game.

Minnesota has won 41 consecutive games against the Mavericks, most recently 5-1 and 6-3 in mid-January in Mankato.

With four games left, the Gophers trail Wisconsin by two points (48-46) in the WCHA race. The Badgers play at Minnesota Duluth this weekend.

5 Ms. Hockey finalists

The five finalists for this year’s Ms. Hockey Award, given to the top senior girls’ hockey player in the state, were announced by Let’s Play Hockey. The list: Kaitlyn Kotlowski of Warroad, Izzy Daniel and Madeline Wethington of Blake, CC Bowlby of Edina, and Kelsey King of Elk River.

The winner will be announced Feb. 24 at the Ms. Hockey Awards Banquet at the St. Paul RiverCentre.

U baseball opener

The Gophers baseball team, tabbed as the Big Ten preseason favorite in a coaches’ poll, will play Gonzaga at 6 p.m. Friday in its season opener.

The game is part of the College Baseball Classic in Surprise, Ariz.

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