Weekend Preview: Notre Dame
Jan. 7: Bjugstad, Rau Back With Gophers
Last Time Out: Minnesota hosted the 21st annual Mariucci Classic last weekend as it welcomed Niagara, Northeastern and Princeton to Mariucci Arena. Nick Larson, Jake Hansen, Erik Haula, Justin Holl and Zach Budish scored in a 5-1 win against Niagara on Friday. Kent Patterson made 20 saves in the win. On Saturday, the Gophers were plagued by penalties as they dropped a 3-2 decision to Northeastern in the championship game. Nate Condon and Taylor Matson scored shorthanded goals for the Gophers, while Patterson made 27 saves and allowed only one goal at even strength.
Minnesota Vs. Notre Dame: Former WCHA foe Notre Dame will visit the current Mariucci Arena for the first time when it comes to town Saturday for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. In a contest that will pit two top-five teams against each other, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia will look to improve his record to 3-0-0 against his alma mater from behind the Gopher bench. In the teams' last meeting on March 27, 2004, Minnesota eliminated the Fighting Irish from their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance with a 5-2 win in Grand Rapids, Mich. Minnesota is 22-13-2 all-time against Notre Dame with a 14-7-2 mark at home.
About The Fighting Irish: After reaching the Frozen Four for the second time in four years in 2010-11, Notre Dame began this season as the nation's No. 1-ranked team. With an 8-3-3-0 CCHA record, the Fighting Irish sit in a tie for second place in their conference and are ranked fifth/third in the country with a 12-6-1 record. After ending a season-worst four-game losing streak against Ferris State before the break, the Irish started the second half with a 5-2 win against future Hockey East opponent Boston University last week, despite playing without U.S. World Junior players T.J. Tynan (7g-20a) and Stephen Johns (2g-4a). Tynan, who leads the Irish and is tied for sixth in the country in points with 27, is followed by Edina, Minn. native Anders Lee (14g-8a) and Detroit Red Wings first-round pick Riley Sheahan (5g-13a). Along with Johns, the Fighting Irish are led defensively by freshman Robbie Russo (3g-8a), junior Sam Calabrese (1g-9a), and senior Sean Lorenz (2g-7a). Between the pipes, junior Mike Johnson has gotten most of the work, posting a 7-5-3 record with a 2.60 goals against average and an .889 save percentage. Steven Summerhays, who has started the last two games, is 5-1-0 and has a 2.65 goals against average and an .890 save percentage.
In The Polls: The Gophers are No. 3 in the USCHO.com poll and No. 5 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll after going 15-6-1 in their first 22 games of the season. Minnesota has been ranked in the top five in both major polls for the last nine weeks. Minnesota began the year No. 19 in the USCHO.com poll and was unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
Top-Five Matchup: Both Minnesota (No. 3/5) and Notre Dame (No. 5/3) are ranked in the top five in both major polls. This Saturday's game will be the first time that Minnesota and its opponent are both ranked in the top five since Nov. 7-8, 2008, when the Gophers hosted New Hampshire at Mariucci Arena. Fourth-ranked Minnesota tied (2-2) and beat (6-2) fifth-ranked New Hampshire.
Hall Of Fame Game History: Saturday's game against Notre Dame will be the 19th time that Minnesota has played in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. The Gophers are 13-5-0 in past games. Their first U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game was on Oct. 26, 1974, which was part of the enshrinement ceremonies for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minn. The Gophers beat Minnesota Duluth 3-2 when Mike Polich scored a power-play goal 56 seconds into overtime. Minnesota last played in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game on Oct. 6, 2006, against Maine at the Xcel Energy Center. Maine won 3-1. Minnesota has played this weekend's opponent, Notre Dame, once in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. The Gophers beat the Irish 7-3 on Oct. 7, 2000, at Xcel Energy Center.
Notre Dame Ties: Coach Don Lucia played four years (1977-81) at Notre Dame. As a defenseman, he skated in 124 games and totaled 30 points (7g-23a) and 48 penalty minutes. Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi is also a Notre Dame graduate.
Outside The WCHA: Minnesota has played eight games against non-WCHA competition this year and is 4-3-1 against those teams. The Gophers play their final non-league game of the season this Saturday against Notre Dame of the CCHA. The Gophers venture back into WCHA play when they head to North Dakota in mid-January.
So Long 2011: The Gophers ended the 2011 calendar year with a 22-12-5 record. They finished the 2010-11 season with a 7-6-4 record and began the current season with a 15-6-1 record. The last time Minnesota had more than 20 wins in a calendar year was in 2007 when it had 23.
Potent Offense, Strong Defense: Through 22 games, the Gophers have scored 90 goals and allowed only 45. Minnesota has the most potent offence in the nation, as they average 4.09 goals-per-game. The Gophers defense, which yields only 2.05 goals-per-game, is the fourth-best in the country.
15 Wins: The Gophers are the only team in the nation with 15 wins. Ohio State has 14 wins, while Boston College has 13.
Home Improvement: Minnesota finished last year with a 9-10-3 record at Mariucci Arena (first season under .500 at the new Mariucci). The Gophers are 10-3-0 this year and have outscored their opponents 57-20. Minnesota wraps up a seven-game homestand this Saturday against Notre Dame. The Gophers are 4-2-0 on their current homestand. Minnesota last played on the road Nov. 25-26 at Michigan State.
Saturday Success: Minnesota's 3-2 loss to Northeastern last Saturday was the first time that the Gophers dropped a Saturday game this year. Minnesota is now 8-1-1 (5-1-0 at home) on Saturdays. Minnesota has outscored its opponents 41-19 on Saturdays so far this season.
Man Down: The Gophers scored two shorthanded goals last Saturday against Northeastern and now have four shorthanded goals on the year. The Gophers also scored twice shorthanded in a win at Alaska Anchorage on Oct. 29. Dating back to last season, Minnesota has six shorthanded goals in three games, as Nick Bjugstad scored two shorthanded goals in a 5-2 home win against Michigan Tech on Feb. 25, 2011. Nate Condon leads the Gophers with two shorthanded goals this season (scored last Saturday and at Alaska Anchorage).
Bjugstad, Rau On Team USA: Minnesota was without its top two goalscorers last weekend for the Mariucci Class, as Nick Bjugstad (16 goals) and Kyle Rau (12 goals) were both representing the United States in the World Junior Championship in Canada. Bjugstad played for Team USA last year and helped lead the United States to a bronze medal. Rau is playing in the World Junior Championship for the first time. Bjugstad and Rau could see some familiar faces this weekend, as Notre Dame's T.J. Tynan and Stephen Johns were also on Team USA. Notre Dame and Minnesota were the only NCAA teams with multiple current players on Team USA.
Haula Ties Bjugstad: Sophomore Erik Haula picked up two points last weekend and is now tied with Nick Bjugstad for the team lead with 27 points. Haula, who has played in 22 games, has 10 goals and 17 assists. Bjugstad, who has played in 20 games, missed both Mariucci Classic games while representing the United States at the World Junior Championship with teammate Kyle Rau.
Schmidt Leads The Nation: With two assists last Friday against Niagara, Nate Schmidt now leads the nation in that category. The sophomore blueliner has 22 assists in 22 games. T.J. Tynan of Notre Dame is second with 20 assists in 20 games. The last Gopher defenseman who led the team in assists was Cade Fairchild, who did it last season with 18 assists.
So Does Patterson: Senior goaltender Kent Patterson has played every minute in net for the Gophers this season. He leads the nation with 15 wins (two other goalies have 12 wins) and has played a nation-leading 1323:00. Shawn Hunwick of Michigan, who has also played in 22 games, has played 1295:00.
Five On Five: The Gophers have scored 58 goals during standard five-on-five play through 22 games (2.63 per game) this year. They have given up only 24 five-on-five goals this season (1.09 per game).
First And Third: Minnesota has dominated the first and third periods of play this year. The Gophers are outscoring their opponents 28-12 (17-9 in WCHA) in the first period and 36-12 (24-6 in WCHA) in the third period this season and overall have outpaced their opposition 90-45.
Scoring First: Minnesota has scored the first goal of the game 17 times in 22 games this season. The Gophers are 14-3-0 when they score first (lost 5-4 against Vermont on Oct. 23, lost 3-2 in overtime against Michigan Tech on Dec. 10 and lost 3-2 against Northeastern on Dec. 31) and 1-3-1 when their opponent scores first. The lone win came at Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 15 (Gophers erased a 2-0 first-period deficit).
Getting To Three: Minnesota has scored three or more goals in 18 of its 22 games this season and is 14-3-1 in those games (Gophers are 11-1-1 when scoring four or more goals this year). Minnesota is 1-3-0 when scoring less than three goals this year (beat North Dakota 2-0, lost 3-1 at Wisconsin, lost 3-2 in overtime against Michigan Tech and lost 3-2 to Northeastern).
Super Sophomores: Minnesota's sophomore class has produced the bulk of the scoring for the Gophers this year. The Maroon and Gold has 237 points (90g-147a) this year and the sophomore class has recorded 136 of those points (48g-88a) points (57.4%). There are 11 sophomores skaters on the team and all of them except Chris Student and Jared Larson have played. All nine who have played have at least one point. Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula lead the way with 27 points each.