Weekend Preview: Wisconsin
Feb. 28: Schmidt, Rau Honored By WCHA
March 1: Q&A With Wisconsin Media
Wisconsin at No. T4/5 Minnesota
Date: March 2-3, 2012
Last Time Out: Minnesota swept Nebraska Omaha on the road last weekend, winning a pair of 3-2 games. The Gophers erased a 2-1 third-period deficit on Friday and prevailed in overtime when Jake Parenteau scored his first-career goal 1:46 into the extra session. On Saturday, Minnesota trailed 1-0 early, but took a 3-1 lead into the final period thanks to two goals from Kyle Rau and one from Mark Alt. The Gophers withstood a Nebraska Omaha third-period shorthanded goal to win. Kent Patterson made 22 saves on Friday and 27 on Saturday.
Minnesota vs. Wisconsin: Border rivals Minnesota and Wisconsin will play a two-game series for the second time this season at Mariucci Arena this weekend. The two schools have met at least four times a year every season dating back to 1969-70. Back on Nov. 11 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., The Badgers won a 3-1 decision to hand the Gophers their first conference loss of the year, but Minnesota salvaged a split the following night with a 4-1 win. All-time, the Gophers hold a 153-84-20 record against Wisconsin with a ledger of 89-26-7 at home. As a top-ten team under coach Don Lucia, Minnesota is 22-9-1 against the Badgers.
About The Badgers: Looking to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time under current head coach Mike Eaves, Wisconsin is heating up at the right time. After losing five straight games from Jan. 27 to Feb. 17, the Badgers have won three in a row, including a win over then-No. 10 Denver, to climb back into the top 25 of the PairWise Rankings. Wisconsin entered last weekend with just one win away from home on the season, but swept Bemidji State on the road with a pair of 4-2 victories. The Badgers are a young team that has only two seniors on the roster. They are led in scoring by sophomore forward Mark Zengerle (11g-33a) and junior defenseman Justin Schultz (15g-27a). Sophomores Michael Mersch (13g-15a) and Tyler Barnes (8g-15a) and freshman Joseph LaBate (5g-15a) each have 20 points or more. Aside from Schultz, Wisconsin is led defensively by second-year skater Frankie Simonelli (5g-13a), rookie Jake McCabe (3g-6a), and junior captain John Ramage (3g-6a). Freshmen Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson have played a majority of the time between the pipes. Rumpel has played more minutes, posting a 10-9-2 record with a 2.70 goals against average and a .910 save percentage, but Peterson has started two of the team's last three games. Peterson is 5-6-0 with a 3.02 goals against average and an .896 save percentage on the year.
In The Polls: The 23-11-1 Gophers are ranked No. 4 in the USCHO poll (tied with Boston university) and No. 5 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Minnesota spent two weeks at No. 1 in the USCHO.com poll earlier this year and four combined weeks at No. 1 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. The Gophers began the year No. 19 in the USCHO.com poll and were unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. They have been ranked in the top 10 in both polls since Oct. 17.
Chasing The Cup: Minnesota is chasing its first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07 when the Gophers finished with 39 points at 18-7-3 in the WCHA. This year, Minnesota is 19-7-0 and has 38 points with two games to play. Minnesota Duluth is 16-6-4 and has 36 points and is the only team capable of catching the Gophers. If Minnesota is able to secure two points against Wisconsin this weekend or if Minnesota Duluth suffers, a loss at St. Cloud State, the Gophers will capture their first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07.
Home Ice: Minnesota has secured home ice and a top-two seed for the WCHA playoffs. Minnesota will host a soon-to-be-determined opponent in a best-of-three series on March 9-11 at Mariucci Arena in the first round of the playoffs. The Gophers are 14-5-0 at home this year and 10-2-0 in home WCHA games (overtime loss to Michigan Tech and a last-minute loss to Colorado College).
Just Wins: The Gophers are 23-11-1 overall this year and 19-7-0 in WCHA play. The 23 wins are the most Minnesota has had since it went 31-10-3 in 2006-07. The 19 WCHA wins are the most that the Gophers have had since they went 20-5-3 in 2005-06. If the Gophers avoid a tie this weekend against Wisconsin it will be the first time since the 1997-98 season (12-16-0 in the WCHA) that Minnesota did not tie a WCHA game.
1,000 Games: Gopher head coach Don Lucia recorded a win in his 1,000th game last Saturday. Lucia now has a 592-325-83 overall record after spending six seasons as head coach at both Alaska Fairbanks (113-87-11) and Colorado College (166-68-18) before coming to Minnesota. Since taking over the Golden Gophers, Lucia has led Minnesota to two national titles and a 313-170-54 record.
Winning Month: Minnesota began February with an 0-2-0 record. However, Minnesota bounced back with two wins against Bemidji State and Nebraska Omaha to finish the month with a 4-2-0 record. Minnesota has had a winning record every month this season. Minnesota was 7-1-0 in October, 4-3-1 in November, 4-2-0 in December and 4-3-0 in January (started January 1-3-0).
Close Encounters: The Gophers are 23-11-1 on the season. Of their 11 defeats, nine have been by one goal (including two in overtime). Minnesota's other two setbacks were by only two goals. The Gophers lost 3-1 at this week's opponent Wisconsin on Nov. 11 and 5-3 at Denver on Feb. 11. Minnesota has played in 18 one-goal games this year and is 9-9-0 in those games. The 18 one-goal games is a season record, tying the 2006-07 team.
127 Goals: Minnesota has scored 127 goals through 35 games this year and still has two games to play in the regular season. The Gophers scored 113 goals all of last season (36 games). The 127 goals are the most that Minnesota has scored since it tallied 161 goals in 44 games during the 2006-07 season.
Potent Offense, Stingy Defense: The Gophers have the second best offense in the nation and the third best defense in the nation. Minnesota averages 3.63 goals-per-game (Minnesota Duluth leads with a 3.76 average). The Gophers allow only 2.09 goals a game, which is third behind Union (1.82) and Miami (2.06).
Youth Movement: Minnesota's freshman and sophomore classes have dominated the stat sheets this year, as six of the eight players who have 20 points or more have either freshman or sophomore eligibility. The Gophers have 340 points this year (127g-213a) and the freshmen (72 points) and sophomore (198 points) classes have combined to score 270 points (79.4 percent). They have also scored 100 goals (78.7 percent) and dished out 170 assists (79.8 percent).
56 Straight: Dating back to 2010-11, Kent Patterson has started 56 straight games for Minnesota. Since taking over as the team's starting goaltender full-time in place of Alex Kangas on Dec. 4, 2010, Patterson has gone 31-19-6 and has recorded a school single-season record with seven shutouts this year. He is the first Gopher goalie to reach 20 wins in a season since Kellen Briggs went 21-6-3 in 2005-06. Robb Stauber has the school's single-season record for wins (34 in 1987-88). Patterson has played 2097:13 in net for the Gophers this year and dating back to last year he has played a consecutive 3374:13 for Minnesota.
Five With 30: Five Gophers have at least 30 points this year. Nick Bjugstad (38 points) leads the way and is followed by Erik Haula (37), Kyle Rau (34), Nate Schmidt (32) and Jake Hansen (30). Minnesota did not have a 30-point scorer each of the last two seasons. The last time that Minnesota had five 30-point scorers was the 2006-07 season. The Gophers had six that year and were led by Jay Barriball (43 points), Kyle Okposo (40), Mike Vannelli (39), Alex Goligoski (39), Blake Wheeler (38) and Ben Gordon (31). This year, Zach Budish (28 points) and Nate Condon (26) could still join the 30-point club.
Bonus Hockey: Minnesota played in its fifth overtime game of the season last Friday and improved to 2-2-1 in such games when Jake Parenteau scored his first-career goals 1:46 into overtime. Minnesota also beat Minnesota Duluth, tied Michigan State, and lost to Michigan Tech and Denver in overtime this year. Nate Condon, who had the primary assist on Parenteau's goal, scored the game-winning goal at Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 14.
Need Three: Minnesota has scored three or more goals in its last seven games and is 5-2-0 in those games. The Gophers, who are second in the nation with a 3.63 goals-per-game average, are 20-6-1 when scoring three or more goals this year. Conversely, they are 3-5-0 when scoring less than three goals. In the seven games prior to Minnesota's seven-game streak of scoring three or more goals, the Gophers scored three or more goals only twice and were 3-4-0 during that stretch.
Streaking: The Gophers have won four straight games (tied for second-longest win streak of the season) and Kyle Rau has had a hand in every win. The freshman is on a seven-game point streak (3g-6a). Rau also had a team-high eight-game point streak (7g-6a) earlier this year. Nick Bjugstad has had both six and five-game point streaks this season. Erik Haula had a seven-game point streak, while Jake Hansen's steak was six games. Zach Budish, Nate Condon and Taylor Matson all have had five-game point streaks.
Schmidt Assists: Nate Schmidt leads the team and ranks sixth in the nation with 30 assists. His 30 helpers are the most by a Gopher blueliner since Alex Goligoski had 30 assists in 44 games during the 2006-07 season. Schmidt needs five more assists this year to tie Dan Trebil (35 assists in 1995-96) for tenth all-time in assists by a defenseman in a season.
Condon Shorthanded: Nate Condon has 10 goals this year, but four of them are shorthanded. 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 tied for second nationally in shorthanded goals (Austin Smith of Colgate leads with 6). Condon has scored shorthanded goals at Alaska Anchorage, against Northeastern, at North Dakota and against Colorado College.
Minnesota Nice: The Gophers finished the regular season with a 9-1-0 record against schools from Minnesota. They were 2-0-0 against Bemidji State, Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State and 3-1-0 against St. Cloud State.