Travel Blog: Five Keys to the Game at North Dakota

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Just as many Minnesota-North Dakota series prove to be this weekend's matchup between two of the biggest rivals in college hockey could ending up being a turning point in the season. Of the 284 meetings between the schools all-time, 98 of them have either been decided by one goal or ended in a tie. Here are five things that Minnesota will have to do to be successful in what is likely to be a tightly-contested series:
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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to UND all weekend long in our GopherSports Travel Blog!
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Starting Strong
North Dakota has been one of the hottest teams in the nation in since the Gophers swept UND in early November. UND will be highly motivated after two frustrating losses at Mariucci Arena and will be backed by a rowdy home crowd and will look to take advantage of a Gopher team that has lost four Friday games (three on the road) this season. Minnesota will need to take the energy out of the building. If UM doesn't score first, it will need to weather what will surely be an energetic start by its opponent.

Physical Play

It is hard to think of a Minnesota-North Dakota series where the teams didn't rack up the penalty minutes. The Gophers will need to amp up their physical play, but do it in a responsible fashion that doesn't result in too many penalty kills.

Man Down
Minnesota's penalty kill got off to a very strong start to the season after ranking in the bottom 10 in the nation in that category last year, but has faltered recently. The Gophers have conceded a power-play goal in six of their seven games since the beginning of December, including two in each of their last two games. That will need to improve this weekend if Minnesota wants to earn some points.

Between the Pipes
The last time these two teams met, there were only seven combined goals scored in the two-game series. UND netminder Aaron Dell had struggled entering the series, but was very strong at Minnesota. Kent Patterson also played very well, only allowing two goals in the weekend and recording his fifth shutout of the year. If Patterson can replicate his November performance, the Gophers should go home happy.

UND's Injuries
One thing that has helped the Gophers have their best start to a season in a long time is their health. UND hasn't been as lucky injury-wise. Rocco Grimaldi, Brendan O'Donnell, Corban Knight, Mario Lamoureux, and Derek Rodwell (out for the season now) have missed multiple games this year due to injury. Grimaldi and Rodwell are out again on Friday and star defenseman Derek Forbort is a game-time decision. The Gophers will need to take advantage of UND not having these talented players in the lineup.

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