Weekend Preview: St. Cloud State

Go Gophers! Nick Bjugstad recorded his first career hat trick against St. Cloud State on Nov. 19.
Go Gophers!
Nick Bjugstad recorded his first career hat trick against St. Cloud State on Nov. 19.
Go Gophers!

Register For Skate With The Gophers 

Jan. 25: Q&A with sophomore Mark Alt l Bjugstad Nets 20 l Gophers Talk St. Cloud State

Jan. 26: Scouting Report on St. Cloud State l Big Ten Icons to feature Herb Brooks

Last Time Out: Minnesota played a pair of 2-1 games against Colorado College last weekend. The Gophers were on the losing side on Friday, but bounced back win a win on Saturday. On Friday, Nick Bjugstad scored his 20th goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1 with 1:17 left in regulation. The Tigers came right back and scored the winning goal with 36 seconds left in the game to secure the win. On Saturday, Colorado College went up 1-0 before Nate Condon leveled the score with his fourth shorthanded goal of the season. Nico Sacchetti then provided the game-winner in the second period with his first goal of the season. 

Minnesota vs. St. Cloud State: In-state rivals Minnesota and St. Cloud will play their second home-and-home series of the season and 36th all-time this weekend. The Gophers swept SCSU in six games in 2008-09 and the Huskies took both 2009-10 meetings, but the teams split two games at Mariucci Arena last season and split their first home-and-home series of this season on Nov. 18 and 19. Back in November, St. Cloud held off a late Gopher comeback at the National Hockey Center to win the first contest 4-3, but Minnesota prevailed with a 5-0 victory at home the following night. Minnesota now holds a 49-27-12 edge in the all-time series, which began in 1990. In home-and-home series in where the Gophers host the first game, UM is 9-6-1 in the first game and 5-6-5 in the weekend finale.

About The Huskies: After losing the high-scoring Drew LeBlanc, freshman forward David Morley, and star senior goaltender Mike Lee to injury early in the year, St. Cloud saw forwards Cam Reid and Mitch MacMillan leave the program before beginning the second half of its WCHA schedule. Despite this adversity, the Huskies went 2-2-0 in against No. 12 Colorado College and 18th-ranked North Dakota in their last two series. SCSU, 10-12-4 overall, now sits in a tie for seventh place in the conference with Michigan Tech with a 7-8-3 WCHA ledger. St. Cloud has been led offensively by junior forward Ben Hanowski's 27 points (12g-15a). Behind Hanowski are senior forward Jared Festler (11g-9a) and standout defensemen Andrew Prochno (4g-16a) and Nick Jensen (5g-14a). Prochno's 20 points rank him second nationally in scoring by a freshman defenseman. In the absence of Lee between the pipes, freshman Ryan Faragher has gotten all of the playing time. In 21 games, Faragher has gone 8-10-3 with a 2.75 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage.

In The Polls: The 17-9-1 Gophers are No. 3 in the latest USCHO.com poll and No. 3 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll. Minnesota has been ranked in the top five in both polls for the last 12 weeks. Minnesota began the year No. 19 in the USCHO.com poll and was unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.

Good Memories: The last time that Minnesota met St. Cloud State was on Nov. 19 at home. The Gophers won 5-0 and the shutout was Kent Patterson's sixth of the season, setting a new school record. The game also featured the first hat trick of Nick Bjugstad's career.

Let's Play Four: St. Cloud State is one of three teams that the Gophers face four times this season in WCHA play. Minnesota is 3-1 against North Dakota this year and will face Wisconsin at home on March 2-3 to finish the regular season. The Gophers are 1-1-0 against both the Huskies and Badgers.

Successful Hockey Day Minnesota: Last Saturday was Hockey Day Minnesota, a day in which the state of Minnesota celebrates the sport of hockey. The Gophers beat Colorado College 2-1 to improve to 4-2-0 all-time on Hockey Day Minnesota, which is a tradition that began in 2007.

Back On Track: The Gophers snapped a three-game losing streak at home with a 2-1 win against Colorado College last Saturday. Minnesota lost on Friday to the Tigers and previously lost home games to Notre Dame and Northeastern. That was the first time since that Minnesota lost three consecutive home games since Oct. 15-22, 2010 (lost twice to Nebraska Omaha and once to St. Cloud State). Minnesota is 11-5-0 at home this season.

17 Wins: Minnesota is one of two teams that have 17 wins in college hockey this year. The Gophers lead the nation with Minnesota Duluth with 17 wins (two of Minnesota's wins came against the Bulldogs). Boston University, Michigan and Ferris State are next with 15 wins each.

103 Goals: Minnesota has scored 103 goals this year (63 at home and 40 on the road) in 27 games. The Gophers could end the year with more goals this season then 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. 

Final Minute: Last Friday, Colorado College scored with 36 seconds left in the game to win 2-1. It was the first time all season that Minnesota allowed a goal with less than one minute remaining in the game. The Gophers have scored seven goals this season in the game's final minutes.

Close Encounters: The Gophers are 17-9-1 on the season. Of their nine 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 5-8-0 in one-goal games this year.

Saturday Success: Minnesota is 10-2-1 in Saturday games this year, which includes a perfect 9-0-0 record in WCHA play.

20/30 Club: Sophomore Nick Bjugstad scored his 20th goal of the season for Minnesota on Friday night. Bjugstad is the first Gopher to score 20 goals in one season since Ryan Stoa registered 24 goals in 36 games during the 2008-09 season. The goal was Bjugstad's 32 point of the season. 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 Shorthanded: Sophomore Nate Condon scored his fourth shorthanded goal of the season last Saturday against Colorado College. His goal tied the game 1-1. Four of Condon's nine goals this year have come on the penalty kill and he is one shorthanded goal away from tying the single-season school record. Peter Hankinson (1989-90) and Steve Griffith (1982-83) each had five. Condon is second nationally is shorthanded goals behind only Austin Smith of Colgate, who has five. Condon also scored shorthanded goals at Alaska Anchorage, against Northeastern and at North Dakota.

Patterson Helps Out: Goaltender Kent Patterson picked up an assist on Nate Condon's shorthanded goal last Saturday. It was Patterson's first assist this season and second of his career, as he also assisted on a Jacob Cepis goal last year at Wisconsin.

Playing Every Game: Goaltender Kent Patterson has played every minute in net for the Gophers this season. He is first in the country in minutes played with 1618:54 in 27 games Patterson is tied for first in the nation with six shutouts and has a .919 save percentage and a 2.08 goals-against average. He leads the WCHA with a 1.94 goal-against average and is second in the conference with a .927 save percentage.

Sacchetti Nets Winner: Senior Nico Sacchetti, who had the longest goalless streak on the team entering last Saturday's game against Colorado College, ended his drought after 18 games played with a second-period strike against the Tigers. Sacchetti had previously scored on Jan. 14, 2011 at North Dakota. Like his last goal against North Dakota, his tally on Saturday was the game-winning goal.

2-1 Games: Last weekend's games against Colorado College featured two of the top three offenses in the nation. The Gophers entered the series with a 4.00 goals-per-game average, while the Tigers were averaging 3.68 goals-per-game. Instead of offense, it was defense and goaltending that shined all weekend. The Tigers won Friday 2-1, while Minnesota won Saturday 2-1. It was the first time that Minnesota had played consecutive 2-1 games since the 2008 WCHA Final Five. Minnesota beat Colorado College 2-1 on March 21 and then lost to Denver 2-1 on March 22.  The last time that Minnesota played a regular-season series where both games ended with a 2-1 score was Jan. 2-3, 2005, at Boston University. Minnesota prevailed in the first game, but lost the second.

Potent Offense, Stingy Defense: The Gophers are the second-highest scoring team in the nation with a 3.81 goal-per-game average. Minnesota also boasts the No. 4 defense in the nation allowing only 2.07 goals-per-game. Minnesota is the only school in the top five in both categories. Minnesota Duluth is the only other team in the top 10 in both categories (No. 1 in offense and No. 9 in defense).

Positive News: Kyle Rau, Mark Alt and Nate Schmidt are tied for fourth in the nation with a +18 rating.

Larson Out: Nick Larson broke his wrist at North Dakota on Jan. 14. The senior had successful surgery on Tuesday, Jan. 17 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.

Super Sophomores: Minnesota has registered 275 points this year on the strength of 103 goals and 172 assists. The sophomore class is responsible for 159 of those points (57.8%) as it has produced 57 goals and 102 assists. Leading the way is Nick Bjugstad who has 32 points (20g-12a). He is followed by Erik Haula (28 points), Nate Schmidt (26 points), Nate Condon (22 points), Zach Budish (22 points), Mark Alt (16 points), Justin Holl (8 points), Tom Serratore (3 points) and Jake Parenteau (2 points). Chris Student is the only sophomore skater who has played, but not recorded a point. Student has played in one game this year.