Mariucci Arena Set for In-State Showdown
Feb. 20, 2013
The No. 2 Minnesota men's hockey program returns to action this weekend with a two-game Western Collegiate Hockey Association series against Minnesota Duluth at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers (20-6-4 overall, 12-6-4 WCHA) open the weekend on Friday at 7 p.m. with FOX Sports North PLUS and 1500 ESPN calling the action. Saturday's series finale is also set for 7 p.m. against the Bulldogs (10-16-4, 8-12-4) with the Big Ten Network and 1500 ESPN broadcasting the game.
Last Time Out
The nationally ranked Gophers split a unique league series with border rival Wisconsin last weekend with the Gophers picking up a 3-2 win at the Kohl Center in Madison on Friday before the Badgers earned a 3-2 win on Sunday at Chicago's Soldier Field as part of the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic. Sunday's game marked the Gophers' first outdoor game of the modern era. Seth Ambroz scored in both games including the eventual game winner in Friday's series opener. All three of Minnesota's goals on Friday came on the power play. Adam Wilcox split the weekend in net to move to 19-5-4 this season.
Best in the Nation
Friday's three power-play goals moved the Gophers into first nationally on the advantage while the Maroon and Gold are also first nationally in scoring offense. On the power play, Minnesota is converting at a national-best .263 this season (35-for-133).Offensively, the Gophers have 110 goals as well as the top goals per game average in the nation at 3.67.
Among the Nation's Best
In addition to the nation's best power play and offense, the Gophers also boast the WCHA's best defense and penalty kill. Minnesota has allowed a WCHA low 59 goals this season and is averaging just 1.97 goals against (fourth nationally). On the penalty kill, the Gophers have successfully killed .890 of their penalties (81-for-91, seventh nationally). Minnesota is the only team in the nation to be ranked among the top ten in scoring offense, scoring defense, power play and penalty kill.
29 for 29
Junior Nate Schmidt leads all NCAA defensemen this season with 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) while his eight goals this season are a career-high for the blue liner. The junior's five-game point streak was snapped on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Against Ranked Teams
This weekend's games mark Minnesota's first against an unranked opponent since Jan. 12 -- a span of eight games. Minnesota is 9-3-2 this season against nationally ranked programs including Sunday's series finale with No. 18 Wisconsin. The Gophers have played eight-straight games against ranked teams and 14 of the team's last 17 games have been played against ranked teams. 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).
Back at Home
Minnesota is coming off a five-game road stretch for the team's first game at home since Jan. 25 (a 2-1 loss to Minnesota State). Despite the loss, Minnesota is an impressive 12-2-2 this season on its home ice. The Gophers played in eight-straight games heading into the road trip, going 6-1-1 over the stretch. Minnesota was 3-2-0 during the five-game road stretch.
Getting A Shot
Friday's 43 shots for the Gophers rank tied for the most this season by the Maroon and Gold. The Gophers also tallied 43 shots on goal in the team's 2-2 overtime tie with the Badgers on November 16, 2012. Minnesota is 4-0-1 this season when tallying 40 or more shots on goal and have done so in each of their last two wins (42 shots in a 4-2 win over St. Cloud State on Feb. 8). 20 shots on goal in a period is also tied for a team-high this season.
How Sweep It Is
Minnesota swept the last series against Minnesota Duluth with a pair of 5-4 wins (one in overtime) to open the WCHA season last year (10/14-15/2011). The sweep was Minnesota' first over the Bulldogs since the 2006-07 season. Minnesota Duluth, meanwhile, swept the Gophers in the 2009-10 season.
Wilcox Set to Compete for New Marks
Adam Wilcox (19-5-4) ranks second in the NCAA in winning percentage this year at .750 and 11th in the nation with 1.85 goals against average -- stats that rank first and second in the WCHA, respectively. The rookie is on pace to compete for Minnesota single-season records for GAA an save percentage. Alex Kangas has both records for the Gophers at 1.98 GAA and a .930 save percentage -- both set in his freshman season with the Gophers (2007-08).
Minnesota's lone senior -- Seth Helgeson -- has played in 140 career games for the Maroon and Gold -- the most by any active Gopher. But the alternate captain has also been incredibly durable over his career. Helgeson has played in 112-consecutive games entering Friday's matchup against the Bulldogs. The defenseman currently has 25 career points (seven goals, 18 assists).
In an odd twist of scheduling, Minnesota will close out the 2012-13 regular season with three WCHA series against teams they have not seen this season. Minnesota retunrs to Mariucci Arena this weekend against Minnesota-Duluth followed by Denver. The Gophers close out the regular season on March 8-9 at Bemidji State. All three series mark the first and only regular-season meetings with Minnesota in the team's final season in the WCHA.