Gophers Maintain No. 1 Ranking, Earn Share of WCHA Lead

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For the fourth week in a row, the Minnesota men's hockey program has earned the No. 1 ranking in both the poll and the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine poll. After picking up three Western Collegiate Hockey Association points with a win and a tie against North Dakota last weekend, the Gophers (17-3-4 overall, 9-3-4 WCHA) are now also tied with St. Cloud State for first place in the league with 22 points each. 

This week's poll saw Minnesota earn 998 points including 48-of-50 first-place votes. Quinnipiac picked up the remaining first-place votes and finished second in the poll with 920 points. Boston College (913), New Hampshire (857) and North Dakota (746) rounded out the top five in this week's poll. Also representing the WCHA in this week's poll are Denver (10th, 545), Omaha (13th, 358), Minnesota State (14th, 356), St. Cloud State (16, 336) and Wisconsin (20, 66). 

The USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll mirrored its counterpart with Minnesota earning 31-of-34 first-place votes and a total of 507 points. Quinnipiac earned 457 total points including the remaining three first-place votes. Boston College (453), New Hampshire (403) and North Dakota (329) rounded out the top five. Other WCHA representatives on this week's poll were Denver (11th, 157), Omaha (14th, 68) and St. Cloud State (15th, 64). Minnesota State -- this week's opponent -- received 57 points but did not earn a ranking in this week's poll. 

Tight WCHA Race

With seven WCHA teams ranked in this week's poll, it's no surprise that the race for the MacNaughton Cup is already heating up. The top seven teams in the league standings are separated by just three points with Minnesota and St. Cloud State pacing the race with 22 points each. Omaha, North Dakota and Denver are just two points back in a three-way tie for third while Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State right in the middle of the fight with 19 league points each. 

Notable Gopher Stats

*Minnesota's leading scorer -- junior Erik Haula -- has 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) this season and has tallied a point in 16-straight games. Haula tallied in both games last weekend -- his first action of 2013 after missing the first three games of the new year with an injury. 

*Junior Nate Schmidt is the nation's top scoring defenseman with 23 points (four goals, 19 assists) this season. Schmidt is averaging 0.96 points a game -- also the most among all NCAA defensemen this season. 

*The Gophers are the nation's top scoring offense this season with 93 goals and an average of 3.88 goals per game. Minnesota leads the WCHA in scoring offense, scoring defense (45 goals against, 1.88 goals against per game, third in the nation), penalty kill (71-for-79, .899, fifth in the nation) and power play (28-for-116, .241, fourth in the nation). Minnesota is the only team in the nation to rank in the top five for all four categories.

*The Gophers are 12-1-2 this season at Mariucci Arena with the team closing out an eight-game home stand this Friday against Minnesota State at 7 p.m. (Big Ten Network, 1500 ESPN). Minnesota, which heads to Mankato for the tail end of a home-and-home series on Saturday (FOX Sports North PLUS, 1500 ESPN), has not played a road game since tying Colorado College 4-4 in overtime on Dec. 8 -- a span of 49 days. 

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