Gophers Prep for First Series at PSU
The No. 1 Minnesota men's hockey program returns to conference action this weekend with its first-ever series against Penn State in a rare Sunday-Monday series in University Park, Pa. The first meeting between the two Big Ten squads happens Sunday at 6 p.m. CT with the action being streamed on Gophersports.com while Monday's finale is also set for 6 p.m. CT on the Big Ten Network and BTN2Go.com. Radio broadcasts for both games will be on 1500 ESPN and the Gopher Radio Network.
Boyd Breaks Out
Travis Boyd led the Big Ten in scoring over the weekend with four points (two goals, two assists) and was named to the Mariucci Classic All-Tournament Team to claim Big Ten First Star of the Week honors. The junior forward scored goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his career over the weekend and set a new career high with three points (one goal, two assists) in Saturday's win over RPI.
With an assist in Friday's 2-2 overtime tie with Colgate, junior captain Kyle Rau became just the 80th Gopher in program history to reach 100 career points. The junior added a pair of goals in Saturday's win over RPI to move his career total to 102 points (38 goals, 64 assists). Saturday's game marked Rau's first multi-goal game of the season (Minnesota is 6-0-0 all-time when the forward tallies more than one goal) while the Gophers are 54-8-4 all-time when Rau tallies a point. Last weekend's performance earned Rau the Big Ten Second Star of the Week -- his second honor of the year from the conference (Third Star on Oct. 15, 2013).
Bound for Sochi
With Thomas Vanek signed on to skate for Austria at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Minnesota now has four alums heading to Sochi, Russia next month. Vanek will make his Olympic debut while Blake Wheeler, Paul Martin and Phil Kessel will skate for the U.S. team. Minnesota is tied with Wisconsin for the most alums on Olympic rosters with four each. Additionally, former Gopher All-American and current Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards will serve as an assistant on the U.S. men's team while former Gopher and Hobey Baker Award winner Robb Stauber will serve as goalie coach for the U.S. women's squad. The U.S. women's squad also features Gopher alums Megan Bozek, Amanda Kessel, Gigi Marvin, Anne Schleper and Lee Stecklein while Noora Raty and Mira Jalosuo will skate for Finland's women's team. All together, the University of Minnesota will send 11 players and a total of 13 alumni to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
The Golden Gophers have tallied a power-play goal in four-straight games entering the weekend -- a record for the 2013-14 campaign. After going 10-for-70 (.143) on the power play in the first 14 games of the season, Minnesota has gone 4-for-17 (.235) over the last four games. The success over the last four games has raised Minnesota's power-play average to 14-for-87 (.161) for the season.
Shut Down Penalty Kill
On the other side of special teams, Minnesota has allowed just one power-play goal in the last five games. Since Nov. 30, the Gophers are 13-for-14 (.929) on the penalty kill -- a figure that ranks first in the Big Ten and tied for fifth nationally over that time span. Minnesota is 60-for-73 (.822) on the penalty kill for the season.
Last Time Out
Minnesota returned to action for the first time in 2014 last weekend with the 23rd annual Mariucci Classic on its home ice. The Gophers tied Colgate 2-2 in overtime on Friday night (Colgate went on to advance via shootout) and then came back to dominate RPI 6-2 in Saturday's third-place game.
Ambroz Stays Hot
Six of junior Seth Ambroz's nine goals have come in the last six games while the forward's empty-net goal last Saturday tied his career high (set as a sophomore in 2012-13). Ambroz's five Big Ten goals are most in the conference, and the junior (9-5--14) needs just two assists and two points to tie his career bests in those categories (9-7--16 last season).
Wilcox Against the Best
In 56 career games played, Adam Wilcox has posted a 37-10-8 overall record. Out of those games, 27 have been played against nationally ranked opponents with the sophomore netminder recording an 16-8-3 record against ranked teams. A Third Team All-WCHA selection last year, Wilcox's .922 career save percentage and 1.96 goals against average are both the best figures in program history. Wilcox needs one more shutout to tie Robb Stauber, Murray McLachlan and Tom Newman for seventh all-time at Minnesota with five shutouts.
Gophers Close Out World Junior Championships
The Gophers sent a trio of representatives to the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden with Hudson Fasching and Brady Skjei on roster and Don Lucia serving as head coach. The U.S. bowed out of competition with a 5-3 loss to Russia in the quarterfinals. In five tournament games, Fasching tallied four points (two goals, two assists) while Skjei had one assist and finished the tournament as a +5 --- the second highest rating on the U.S. squad.
Hitting the Century Mark
A pair of Gophers are expected to make their 100th career appearances this weekend in Happy Valley as both Kyle Rau and Ben Marshall sit with 98 games under their belts entering the weekend. Rau has 102 points (38 goals, 64 assists) while Marshall has 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists including two last Saturday against RPI).