No. 1 Minnesota Set for Home-and-Home Series with No. 14 Minnesota State
Jan. 23, 2013
The No. 1 Minnesota men's hockey program returns to action this weekend with a home-and-home series against Western Collegiate Hockey Association rival Minnesota State. The Gophers (17-3-4 overall, 9-3-4 WCHA) host the Mavericks for Friday's opener at 7 p.m. before heading to Mankato for the series finale. Friday's contest will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network with FOX Sports North PLUS airing Saturday's matchup -- 1500 ESPN will provide radio broadcasts for both games. The Gophers are 32-9-6 all-time against Minnesota State including a 16-3-6 mark at Mariucci Arena. Minnesota State (15-8-3 , 9-8-1) holds a 6-4-0 advantage over the last 10 games with the two teams splitting a home-on-home series earlier this season. The Gophers opened the earlier series with a 3-2 win on Nov. 2 at Mariucci Arena with the Mavericks splitting the series with a 5-3 win on Saturday in Mankato.
Wilcox Stay Hot
Rookie netminder Adam Wilcox (16-2-4) leads the WCHA in goals against average (1.72), wins (16) and winning percentage (.818) this season and is unbeaten in his last 10 games. Wilcox ranks seventh nationally in GAA, second in wins and third in winning percentage. The freshman also has a .923 save percentage and has posted three shutouts in his first campaign with the Gophers.
Condon Earns WCHA Honor
Nate Condon scored a pair of goals and set up three others over the weekend to earn Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors on Jan. 22. Condon was the No. 1 star in both games this weekend and capped a two-goal Minnesota rally with less than three minutes to play in regulation on Saturday . On the season, Condon has 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists). The award is Condon's second career WCHA honor after picking up Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week honors on Nov. 2, 2010.
WCHA Race Tightens Up
For the first time this season, Minnesota finds itself owning a share of the WCHA lead. 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.
10-Game Unbeaten Streak
Minnesota's 10-game unbeaten streak is the second longest active streak in the country right now behind Quinnipiac's 17-game stretch. The Gophers have tallied 50 goals during the unbeaten streak for an average of five goals per game. Worth noting, seven of Minnesota's 10 games during the streak have come against nationally ranked opponents (7-0-2).
On the Road Again
Friday's game marks the conclusion of an eight-game home stand for the Gophers that saw the team open 2013 with seven-straight wins at Mariucci Arena before tying North Dakota last Saturday. Minnesota's home rink has been exceptional good to the Gophers this season with the team boasting a 12-1-2 record at home this year. Minnesota's last road game came on Dec. 8 (a 4-4 overtime tie at Colorado College) -- a span of 49 days separate Minneosta's last road game from Saturday's contest in Mankato. Saturday's game kicks off a five-game road trip for the Gophers that culminates with the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic on Feb. 17.
Offense Leads the Nation
Minnesota boasts the nation's top offense this season with 93 total goals and an average of 3.88 goals per game. Furthermore, the Gophers have tallied four or more goals in each of the last seven games. Leading the Pack In addition to leading the nation and the WCHA in scoring offense, Minnesota also leads the WCHA in 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.
Haula Returns in Fine Form
Junior Erik Haula saw his first action of 2013 last weekend against North Dakota after missing the first three games of the new year with an injury. Haula picked up a goal and two assists against UND to extend his point streak to 16-straight games with a point. The Fin has actually tallied in 19 of the 21 games he's played in this year while the junior leads Minnesota and and ranks tied for 11th in the nation this season with 29 points. Haula's 19 assists are tied for the sixth most in the nation this year.
Schmidt Leads All NCAA Defensemen
Nate Schmidt also has 19 assists this season and sits tied with Haula for sixth in the nation overall, but the junior defenseman also leads all NCAA defensemen this season with 23 points (four goals, 19 assists) this year. Mariucci Magic Friday's announced crowd of 10,318 was the third largest attendance in Mariucci Arena history and fans followed that game up with 10,256 for the final WCHA regular season meeting with UND.
The North Star State
Minnesota State is the only in-state team that the Gophers have played through the first 24 games of the season. Looking forward, eight of Minnesota's final 12 regular-season games will be played against in-state rivals (Minnesota State this weekend and series against St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Duluth and Bemidji State). The Gophers only leave the state of Minnesota one time in the remainder of the regular season.
After missing nine games earlier this year with an injury, Sam Warning has made an impact with points in nine of of 11 games since returning to the lineup including a seven-game point streak. The sophomore has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) during his current streak and 14 points (five goals, nine assists) since returning to the Gophers lineup. Warning's 16 points this season matched his freshman total despite coming in less than half as many games.
Against Ranked Foes
A WCHA series with No. 14 Minnesota State marks Minnesota's 11th and 12th game against a nationally ranked opponent this season. The Gophers are 6-1-3 against ranked teams this season and will have played 10 ranked teams in the last 13 games after this weekend. Among the team's wins over nationally ranked wins are back-to-back wins over then No. 1 Boston College (8-1, Dec. 30) and No. 2/3 Notre Dame (4-1, Jan. 8).
Travis Boyd (3-9--12), Seth Ambroz (7-7--14), Christian Isackson (3-12--15) and Tom Serratore (6-0--6) all are in the middle of career seasons for the Gophers. All have set new marks for goals and points in 2012-13.
The Gophers are 1-1-0 against Minnesota State this year -- Mavericks head coach Mike Hastings' first season at the helm in Mankato. Hastings served as an assistant coach at Minnesota during the 2008-09 season and is the third assistant under Don Lucia to become a Division I head coach (St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko served unde Lucia at Minneosta from 2001-05, Colorado College head coach Scott Owens served under Lucia with the Tigers from 1993-95).
Vote Now for the Hobey Bake Award
Fan voting for the 2013 Hobey Baker Award is currently underway and runs through March 10. Nick Bjugstad, Erik Haula and Nate Schmidt represent the Gophers on this year's ballot. The Top 10 candidates will be announced on March 21 with the Hobey Hat Trick of three finalist coming out on April 3. The Hobey Baker Award will be awarded during the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh on April 12. Vote and learn more at HobeyBakerAward.com.