Observations from Minnesota's 5-1 Win Over Niagara

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Mariucci Classic
With a win over Niagara on Friday, the Gophers reached the Mariucci Classic final for the 17th time in the tournament's 21-year history. Minnesota has won its own tournament 12 times. UM plays Northeastern of Hockey East tomorrow in the final.

The Gophers beat the Huskies in the 2008-09 championship 3-2 in overtime on a Patrick White goal. Northeastern won the 1997-98 tournament with a 4-2 victory of the Gophers.

Saturday's game against Northeastern, who topped Princeton in a shootout on Friday, begins at 6 p.m.

A Welcomed Guest
Pete Winslow, the brother of Minnesota athletic trainer Jeff Winslow, dropped the ceremonial first puck before Friday's game. Winslow was the youngest player on Team USA's power soccer team that won the 2011 FIPFA World Cup in Paris, France in November.

With Winslow in attendance, the Gophers improved to 7-4-0 on Fridays. The Gophers are unbeaten thus far on Saturdays (8-0-1).

An Eventful Year
With one game left in the calendar year, the Gophers have a 22-11-5 record in 2011. Minnesota finished the 2010-11 season with a 7-6-4 record and have started the current season at 15-5-1. The last time UM had more than 20 wins in a year was in 2007 when it had 23. The 2006-07 Gophers had a 14-9-0 finish and the 2007-08 team was 9-9-2 midway through the season. Minnesota will play its final game of 2011 in the Mariucci Classic championship against Northeastern of Hockey East.

Red, White, Blue, Maroon, and Gold
Sophomore Nick Bjugstad and freshman Kyle Rau are both missing this weekend to play for the United States at the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alta. Rau is the 62nd Minnesota player to compete in the tournament and the 60th to play for the U.S. in 35 years of competition. Only Thomas Vanek (Austria, 2004) and Erik Haula (Finland, 2011) have played for other countries. Bjugstad, who was on last year's bronze-medal winning squad, is the 19th Gopher to appear in the tournament twice.

Through three games, Rau has two goals and Bjugstad has one. Bjugstad's tally was the game-winner in the team's lone victory thus far. It was his third game-winning goal in two WJCs. Entering the night, the duo had accounted for 22.9 percent (49 of 219) of Minnesota's total points.

Current Nebraska-Omaha bench boss and former Gopher Dean Blais is the team's head coach for the third time. He is the third head coach of Team USA with Minnesota ties. Mike Guentzel, the Gophers' associate head coach, was on the team's coaching staff three times and current UM Director of Hockey Operations is now serving as the team's video coach.

Stepping In
Prior to tonight, forward Zach Budish had played on a line with Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau in all 20 of the team's games. Tonight, Budish stayed in his customary right wing position, but he was on a line with senior Nick Larson and freshman Christian Isackson. Isackson, Nico Sacchetti, and Joe Miller had the least amount of games played for Minnesota entering the night. Isackson and Sacchetti each played in their sixth game and Miller was playing in his second. Miller, who scored in his 2011-12 debut, is the only one with a point.
 
Big Helpers
With an assist on Nick Larson's game-opening goal, Nate Schmidt took the NCAA lead in assists with his 21st of the season. Sophomore Jake Parenteau also picked up his first career assist on the play, appearing in his 26th career game and 18th of the season. Schmidt added another assist on the third goal of the game by Erik Haula.

Haula, who assisted on a Justin Holl goal less than four minutes after his goal, moved into a tie for the team lead in points with 27. He is tied with Nick Bjugstad.

Against Atlantic Hockey
Atlantic Hockey opponents had haunted the Gophers prior to this season, but Minnesota has taken care of foes from the East this season. UM went 3-0-0 against AHA schools, outscoring Sacred Heart and Niagara by a combined 20-1.

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