Weekend Preview: Colorado College

Go Gophers! Nate Condon had five points (2g-3a) the last time Minnesota played Colorado College.
Go Gophers!
Nate Condon had five points (2g-3a) the last time Minnesota played Colorado College.
Go Gophers!

LIVE BLOG: Colorado College at Minnesota (active at 7 p.m.)

Minnesota notes for Jan. 20 Get Acrobat Reader l Skate With The Gophers is Feb. 4

Jan. 18: Q&A with Zach Budish l Guentzel prepares to face CC and his son

Jan. 19: Scouting report on Colorado College  

Last Time Out: The Gophers split a weekend series at North Dakota in what was Minnesota's last WCHA regular-season trip to Grand Forks. On Friday, Kyle Rau put Minnes0ta up 1-0, but that was all the offense that the Gophers would get. North Dakota scored a last-minute, second-period goal and then scored the game-winning goal with less than five minutes remaining in the game. The Gophers rebounded on Saturday with a 6-2 win. Nick Bjugstad and Nate Condon scored twice and Seth Ambroz and Nate Schmidt also scored. Taylor Matson had a career high three assists. Kent Patterson made 23 saves on Friday and 24 saves on Saturday. Minnesota went 3-1 against North Dakota and won the season series for the first time since 2005-06.

Minnesota Vs. Colorado College: Dating back to 1947, Minnesota and Colorado College have met 251 times. The Golden Gophers have a 160-84-7 all-time series edge with a 96-24-2 home ledger. The last time the teams met was on Oct. 29-30, 2010 when the Gophers earned 4-1 and 9-4 road wins. Dating back to the beginning of the 2005 calendar year, eight of the last nine regular-season series Minnesota has played against the Tigers have resulted in sweeps. The Gophers swept five of those series, including the last two. Minnesota is 7-1-0 in its last eight games against CC at home and hasn't lost a home game to the Tigers since Dec. 14, 2008.

About The Tigers: After coming within one win of reaching the Frozen Four in 2010-11, Colorado College began this season ranked seventh and has justified its high ranking all year. Last weekend, the Tigers beat St. Cloud 3-1 at home and dropped a 5-4 decision in overtime the following night, leaving them with 13-8-1 overall record and a 10-6-0 mark in the WCHA. CC sits in third place in the WCHA, four points behind Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth. The Tigers are led by the Schwartz brothers, Rylan and Jaden. Rylan (18g-9a), a junior, has 27 points in 21 games while sophomore Jaden (7g-17a) has 24 points in 16 games after missing time to captain Team Canada to a bronze medal at the World Junior Championship. Junior defenseman Mike Boivin and junior forward Scott Winkler are next in points with six goals and 15 assists each. Between the pipes, junior Joe Howe and second-year netminder Josh Thorimbert have split time. Thorimbert has been impressive, racking up an 8-3-3 record with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. Howe, of Plymouth, Minn., is 5-5-1 with a 3.51 goals-against average and an .879 save percentage.

In The Polls: The 16-8-1 Gophers are No. 4 in the latest USCHO.com poll and No. 2 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll. Minnesota has been ranked in the top five in both polls for the last 11 weeks. Minnesota began the year No. 19 in the USCHO.com poll and was unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.

Hockey Day Minnesota: Minnesota welcomes Colorado College to Mariucci Arena this weekend for two games. Saturday's game is part of Hockey Day Minnesota and will begin at 5 p.m. The Gophers are 3-2 in Hockey Day Minnesota games and beat fourth-ranked Denver 7-3 last year at Mariucci Arena. This is the first time that the Gophers are playing Colorado College as part of the Hockey Day Minnesota festivities.

Lucia At Colorado College: Minnesota head coach Don Lucia was the bench boss at Colorado College before taking over the Gophers. He compiled a 166-68-18 (.694) record with the Tigers during six seasons. Lucia led the Tigers to a 23-11-5 record and the WCHA regular-season title in his first season in 1993-94. Colorado College had struggled to an 8-28 record the previous season and had not experienced a winning season in the previous 13 campaigns. Lucia, who guided Colorado College to an unprecedented three straight outright regular-season league titles in his first three years as coach, helped the Tigers appear in the 1996 championship game and 1997 NCAA Frozen Four. Lucia was honored at the conclusion of the 1993-94 season as the 44th recipient of the Spencer Penrose Award as National Coach of the Year by the American Hockey Coaches Association.

Family Ties: Associate Head Coach Mike Guentzel will see a familiar face this weekend as his son Gabe is a senior standout defensemen for the Tigers. Gabe has 17 points (3g-14a) in 22 games. Mike Guentzel was an assistant coach at Colorado College during Gabe's freshman season in 2008-09. This will not be the first meeting between the two members of the Guentzel family. Mike was an assistant coach at Nebraska Omaha last season and faced Colorado College twice on the road. The Tigers won the first game 5-2 and lost the second game 3-0.

Larson Out: Nick Larson broke his wrist in last Saturday's game at North Dakota. The senior had surgery on Tuesday and there is no timetable for his return. Larson has played in 21 games this year and has four points (3g-1a). He has 25 points (13g-12a) in 97 career games.

16 Wins: Minnesota is the only team in the nation with 16 wins. Minnesota Duluth has 15 wins, while Boston College, Ohio State, Michigan and Ferris State each have 14 wins.

Close Encounters: The Gophers are 16-8-1 on the season. Of their eight defeats, seven have been by one goal (including one in overtime). Minnesota's only loss of more than one goal was a 3-1 setback at Wisconsin on Nov. 11. Minnesota is 4-7-0 in one-goal games this year.

Offense Meets Offense: Two of the top three offenses in the nation will meet this weekend when Colorado College comes to Mariucci Arena. The Gophers are second in the nation averaging 4.00 goals-per-game, while the Tigers are third with a 3.68 goal-per-game average. Colorado College's power play is ranked sixth in the nation (25-of-100 for 25.00%), while Minnesota's is ranked eighth (28-of-117 for 23.93%). This weekend's games will also feature two of the top three goal scorers in the nation. Minnesota sophomore Nick Bjugstad is second in the nation with 19 goals in 23 games, while Colorado College junior Rylan Schwartz is third with 18 goals in 21 games.

100 Goals: Minnesota has scored 100 goals this year (60 at home and 40 on the road) in 25 games. The Gophers could end the year with more goals this season they have had in the last four seasons. The Gophers scored 113 goals in 2010-11 and 106 during the 2009-10 season. During the 2008-09 season they scored 119 goals and during the 2007-08 season they scored 109. Minnesota scored 161 goals in 44 games during the 2006-07 season. 

Stingy Defense: The Gophers have the nation's fourth-best defense as they are allowing only 2.12 goals-per-game. One of the main reasons why the defense is so effective is that Minnesota allows only 25.9 shots a game. The Gophers have allowed 29 or less shots in 19 of 25 games this season and are 13-6-0 in those games.

Post WJC: Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau represented the United States at the recent World Junior Championship. They have played three games for Minnesota since returning and have been producing. Bjugstad has points in all three games and has four points (3g-1a) since returning. Rau was held scoreless against Notre Dame, but had three points (1g-2a) against North Dakota last weekend. Bjugstad is tied for eighth in the nation nationally with 31 points, while Rau leads all freshmen nationally with 25 points.

First In Line: Kyle Rau, Nick Bjugstad and Zach Budish have played together on the top line every game this season (except when Rau and Bjugstad were at the WJC). The trio forms one of the best lines in college hockey and has produced 77 of Minnesota's 266 points (28.9%). They have combined for 38 of the team's 100 goals (38.0%) and for 39 of the team's 166 assists (23.4%). 

30 Something: Nick Bjugstad had two goals on Saturday against North Dakota and now has 31 points (19g-12a) on the year. He is the first Gopher to record 30 or more points in one season since 2008-09 when four players accomplished the feat. That year Ryan Stoa lead Minnesota with had 46 points (24g-22a) in 36 games. He was followed by Jordan Schroeder (45 points), Jay Barriball (34 points) and Cade Fairchild (33 points). In 2010-11, Jacob Cepis led the Gophers with 29 points. In 2009-10, Schroeder and Tony Lucia each had 28 points to lead the team.

Condon Heating Up: Nate Condon has seven points (3g-4a) in his last four games and is heating up just in time to face Colorado College, a team he had a career day against last season. On Oct. 30, 2010, Condon had a five-point effort (2g-3a) and was +5 against the Tigers in Minnesota's 9-4 win. He was the first Gopher to record five points in one game since Ryan Potulny (4g-1a) on March 17, 2006 versus St. Cloud State and the first freshman to accomplish the feat since Phil Kessel (1g-4a) on Nov. 11, 2006 versus Alaska Anchorage.

Another Shorty: Nate Condon scored his third shorthanded goal of the season on Saturday at North Dakota. Only Colgate's Austin Smith has more shorthanded goals nationally (5). Condon, who also scored shorthanded goals against Northeastern and Alaska Anchorage this year, is the first Gopher to have three shorthanded goals in one season since Ryan Stoa had four during the 2008-09 campaign.

Best For Last: After being victimized by a second-period last-minute goal in a 2-1 loss last Friday, the Gophers responded with two last-minute goals of their own in Saturday's win. Nick Bjugstad put Minnesota up 2-0 with 20 seconds left in the first period and then Nate Condon made it 5-2 Gophers when he scored with 39 seconds left in the second period. Minnesota has scored 11 goals this year in the last minute of a period and has allowed only two.

Playing Frozen Four Teams: Minnesota has played seven games against teams who were in the Frozen Four last year and are 5-2-0 against those teams. Minnesota is 2-0-0 against defending national champion Minnesota Duluth, 3-1-0 against North Dakota and 0-1-0 against Notre Dame. The Gophers do not play Michigan, who was also in the Frozen Four last year, this season.

Playing Every Game: Senior goaltender Kent Patterson has played every minute in net for the Gophers this season. He is first in the country in minutes played with 1499:44 in 25 games Patterson is first in the nation with six shutouts and has a .918 save percentage and a 2.12 goals-against average.