Wednesday Roundup: Border Battle, Rau Comes Up Big, Patterson Ties Stauber and Condon Heads Home

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Minnesota-Wisconsin Rivalry

Minnesota and Wisconsin meet this weekend on the ice in Madison, but the schools are also facing one another in football in Minneapolis. In addition, the Vikings and Packers are playing in Green Bay on Monday Night Football. Yes, this truly is a Border Battle weekend and the Gophers are excited about it.

"We've got to uphold our end of the Border Battle," said coach Don Lucia. "There's the Packers and Vikings and certainly Gopher football and we have two games, so we want to make sure we do our part this weekend."

Redshirt sophomore Zach Budish has three points (2g-1a) in four career games against Wisconsin. He is looking forward to both games at the Kohl Center, but also the entire sporting weekend.

"I'm a big Vikings fan, so that's a big one for me Monday night," said Budish. "But Friday and Saturday we have to take care of business. It's a big Border Battle for Minnesota and Wisconsin this weekend."

Senior goaltender Kent Patterson, who is 1-0-2 in his career against the Badgers with a 2.53 goals-against average and .919 save percentage, said the Kohl Center is one of his favorite places to play.

"It is a great atmosphere," said Patterson. "They have a great fan base, especially their student section. They are right behind me for two periods each game and for four periods on the weekend. It is great to see that atmosphere and just the rivalry itself is exciting."  

Rau Comes Up Big

Freshman Kyle Rau is 5-foot-8 and weighs 172 pounds. He is smallest player on the team, but has come up big for the Gophers in his first 10 collegiate games.  

Rau leads all freshmen and is tied for third nationally among all players with 15 points. His eight goals lead all freshmen and tie him for fifth among all players in the nation. His four game-winning goals are more than anybody else in the country.

The true freshman has points in nine of 10 games this year, including points in his last eight. Rau was named the national rookie of the month for October.

A lot of people outside of the program may be surprised at his instant success, but his coaches and teammates are not.

"He's going to score," said Lucia. "He's scored all his life. Guys have that dirty rotten habit of scoring goals and he's got it. It's a good habit to have. He knows where to go, he finds empty ice, and the puck seems to follow him. I watched him a lot, even since peewees and bantams growing up, and that competitive nature has always been there."

Rau has played on the top line with sophomore center Nick Bjugstad and redshirt sophomore right wing Zach Budish.

"It's kind of weird that I'm the oldest guy on the line and I'm only a redshirt sophomore," said Budish. "It's a lot of fun playing with both of them. Kyle knows where to go, as you can see. He scores goals every weekend and he gets in the right spot.

"I knew he was going to adjust well to college and I think he's exceeded expectations through the first ten games of the season and I expect him to continue that. He's very fun to play with. He skates well and does the little things that people don't notice. He blocks shots, he finishes his checks, he's good defensively, and he's got a good all-around game."

Lucia said he knew right away that he wanted to experiment with Rau on the top line with the larger Bjugstad (six-foot-five) and Budish (six-foot-three).

"Right from the get-go, I thought of putting him with Nick and Budish," said Lucia. "That would be a nice combination. With Zach coming back there's some size there. We didn't want Kyle, even though he's been a center his whole life, to play center as a freshman. We thought it'd be easier for him."

Rau certainly has made it look easy.

"It's a blast coming to the rink every day," said Rau. "My line has made the adjustment to college hockey so much easier being with Bjugstad and Budish. They're both amazing players. The guys are awesome. They've made the transition really easy because they're just great guys. It's just a blast. I never thought it would be this much fun."

Patterson Ties Stauber

Kent Patterson posted his fifth shutout of the season in a 2-0 win against North Dakota last Friday. It came in the ninth game of the year and tied Robb Stauber for the most in one season by a Gopher.

"I have not talked to Robb yet, but he was one of my role models and mentors growing up," said Patterson, who is 9-1-0 on the year with a 1.60 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. "Robb was a great goaltender when he was here and he probably still is a great goaltender when he puts on the pads."

Stauber posted five shutouts during the 1987-88 season, which was the same year he won the Hobey Baker Award. Stauber started all 44 games that year.

Patterson, who did not have a shutout before this season, is quick to credit his teammates for helping him keep the puck out of the net.

"Guys have been finding their roles and playing into those roles and we have been playing as a team," he said. "You saw that last weekend. Guys were blocking shots and willing to do the hard things to get the two victories. Our defense has been letting me see shots and for the most part they have been taking care of the second shots and clearing pucks outs."

Lucia is quick to point out that Patterson had a pretty good junior year after he became the No. 1 goalie in early December. Patterson's .920 save percentage from last year ranks second all-time at Minnesota in a single season.

"He had a great season last year," said Lucia. "Let's not forget that he was a second-team all-WCHA goalie last year. His play in the second half helped us become a better team in the second half of last year. He's taken off where he's left off."

Condon Heads Home

Nate Condon is the only player on Minnesota's roster who is from Wisconsin. The sophomore center was recruited by the Badgers but picked the Gophers over his hometown school.

Many of Condon's family members went to school at Wisconsin, including his aunt, Kristi Austin, who played basketball for the Badgers from 1974-76. She was also recently named president of Wisconsin's W Club.

Last year, Condon scored at Wisconsin as the Gophers beat and tied Wisconsin in Madison.

"That felt great," said Condon. "I had probably 10 to 15 family members there and I got them to wear Gopher stuff, which was a task in itself. It's what I thought about since I came to Minnesota--scoring against Wisconsin. All of my aunts and uncles and cousins graduated from there."

Condon looks forward to this weekend more than any other because he gets to go home and play in front of friends and family.

"This is by far the road trip I look forward to the most--going back home and playing at the Kohl Center. I played at the Kohl Center countless times growing up at different levels. Not to mention a lot of my friends from high school go to Madison."

When asked how many of his family members would be at Kohl Center this week, Condon said zero. They all decided to make the trek to the Twin Cities and watch the football game between the Gophers and Badgers instead. 

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