Gophers Return to WCHA Play with Alaska Anchorage
Jan. 10, 2013
The top-ranked Minnesota men’s hockey program returns to Western Collegiate Hockey Association action this weekend with a two-game series against Alaska Anchorage at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers (14-3-3 overall, 6-3-3 WCHA) open the weekend at 8 p.m. on Friday night with the Big Ten Network broadcasting the opener (Dan Kelly, Rob Andringa, Mark Strobel). Saturday’s series finale returns to 7 p.m. with FOX Sports North broadcasting (Doug McLeod, Kevin Gorg, Tom Chorske). Radio broadcasts for both games are available on 1500 ESPN and Gophersports.com (Wally Shaver, Frank Mazzocco). Minnesota is 55-19-8 all-time against Alaska Anchorage (3-11-4, 1-10-3) including a 29-10-3 mark in Minneapolis.
Last Time Out
In a battle of the two top-ranked teams in the nation, No. 1 Minnesota cruised to a 4-1 win over No. 2/3 Notre Dame on Tuesday with goals from four different Gophers. Nate Condon, Sam Warning and Zach Budish paced the game with a goal and an assist each while Adam Wilcox remained unbeaten in his last six games. Christian Isackson also tallied a goal for Minnesota in the win. Don Lucia improved to 6-2-0 all-time against his alma mater including a 3-1-0 mark as head coach of the Gophers. Lucia also earned family bragging rights by picking up a win against the Irish -- Lucia’s son, Mario, is a freshman forward with Notre Dame this season.
Earlier This Season
Minnesota picked up three league points earlier this season against the Seawolves in Anchorage. The Gophers earned a 4-0 victory over Alaska Anchorage on Nov. 9 behind four power-play goals. Kyle Rau notched a pair of goals including the game winner, Erik Haula tallied a goal and an assist and Adam Wilcox put together a 14-save shutout. The two teams battled to a 2-2 overtime tie the following night with goals from Haula and Seth Ambroz. The tie marked the first tie between the two teams since 2/13/09 (2-2 overtime tie at Mariucci Arena).
Back to the WCHA Grind
After three nonconference games in a row, Minnesota returns to league action for the final 16 games of the regular season. The Gophers finished the nonconference season with an 8-0-0 mark outside of the WCHA including four wins over nationally ranked opponents.
Among the Nation’s Best
Minnesota ranks third in the NCAA this season in scoring offense (and second in the WCHA behind Omaha) with an average of 3.65 goals per game. On the other end of the ice, the Gophers rank fourth in the nation, allowing just 1.80 goals against per game -- a figure that leads the WCHA this season.
Special Teams Success
Minnesota leads the WCHA at both ends of the special teams spectrum this season, ranking first in the league on the penalty kill (61-for-68; .897) and on the power play (22-for-97; .227). Nationally, Minnesota ranks eighth while on the advantage and seventh on the penalty kill, making the Gophers the only team in Division I hockey with a top-ten ranked offense, defense, penalty kill and power play.
Wilcox Stays Hot
No goalie in the WCHA has more wins (13-2-3) and a better winning percentage (.806; second in the nation) than Minnesota freshman Adam Wilcox. The rookie also ranks second in the WCHA with a 1.60GAA (sixth in the nation, first among rookies) and third in the league with a .929 save percentage. Wilcox, who is tied for the WCHA lead with three shutouts this season, is unbeaten in his last six games.
Gophers Against Ranked Foes
Tuesday’s 4-1 win over No. 2/3 Notre Dame marked Minnesota’s eighth game this season against a ranked opponent (6-1-1) and second-straight against a top-five program. The Gophers opened the season with a two-game sweep over No. 16 Michigan State (Oct. 12-13), split a pair of 3-2 league games with No. 13/14 Omaha (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) and picked up three league points at No. 19 Colorado College (Dec. 7-8) before topping No. 1 Boston College 8-1 on Dec. 30.
Rau Makes His Mark
Not only does Kyle Rau now rank tied for second in the nation with four-game winning goals (one off the national lead) after tallying the deciding goal against Boston College, a point by the sophomore has been a good sign for the Gophers all season. Minnesota is 13-0-1 this season when Rau notches a point and 5-0-0 when he records multiple points (16-2-0 career record with multiple points from Rau). The sophomore has tallied a point in four-straight games.
Scoring from the Blue Line
Nate Schmidt is tied for third among WCHA and all NCAA defensemen with 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) this season. In the WCHA, Schmidt’s 10 power-play points are tied for third overall in the league (Rau also has 10 power-play points while Erik Haula leads the Gophers and ranks second in the league with 11 points).
The Last Three Games
Minnesota’s high-powered offense and strong defense have shined bright over the last three games, the Gophers have outscored its last three opponents -- Air Force, No. 1 Boston College and No. 2/3 Notre Dame -- by a combined score of 16-2. Minnesota, which has also given up a WCHA low 36 goals this season, also leads the nation in scoring margin at 1.85.
Gold for USA
The Gophers had a pair of representatives on the 2013 U.S. World Junior Championships squad that won gold in Ufa, Russia last weekend. Freshman Mike Reilly had a goal and two assists in seven games for Team USA while Gophers assistant Grant Potulny served in the same capacity for the title team. Minnesota has been represented by players and/or staff in every World Junior Championships except 1992 (dating back to the inaugural event in 1977).
Haula Nears Century Mark
Junior Erik Haula leads Minnesota with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) and ranks tied for fifth in the WCHA scoring race this season. The forward, who ranks tied for ninth in the NCAA with 1.37 points per game, sits with 99 career points and needs just one more to become the first Gopher to hit 100 points since Jay Barriball did so on Oct. 30, 2009. Haula, who has tallied a point in 14-straight appearances and missed his first career game (other than for World Junior Championships) on Tuesday, is not expected to be in the lineup this weekend (injury).
Unusual Second Half
After Minnesota’s first half took the team across the country to Alaska Anchorage, Colorado College and Vermont, the Gophers only leave the state of Minnesota one time for the remainder of the regular season -- Minneosta heads to Madision in mid February before moving on to Chicago for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic two days later.