Gophers Close Out Regular Season at Bemidji State
March 6, 2013
The No. 2 Minnesota men's hockey program closes out the 2012-13 Western Collegiate Hockey Association this weekend with a two-game series at in-state rival Bemidji State. This weekend's series marks the first and only series between the two programs this season as Minnesota (22-7-5 overall, 14-7-5 WCHA) transitions from the WCHA to the Big Ten Conference in 2013-14. Friday's series opener is set for 7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North and 1500 ESPN while Saturday's finale will be held at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports North PLUS and 1500 ESPN. Both games will be held at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. The Gophers are 10-1-1 all-time against Bemidji State (6-18-8, 5-14-7) including a 2-0-1 record in road action.
Last Time Out
The Gophers are coming off a WCHA split against Denver in the 2012-13 regular-season home finale. Minnesota's high-powered offense was shut down for the first time in nearly a year on Friday night in the series opener, losing 2-0 with the Pioneers picking up an empty-net goal to seal the win. Saturday was a different story, however, as Minnesota picked up a 5-1 win over the visitors. Zach Budish tied a career high with four points in the win (two goals, two assists) while Erik Haula had three assists in the Gophers' victory. Adam Wilcox was in net for both games for Minnesota and allowed just two goals -- one even-strength goal -- over the weekend.
Last Time Around
This weekend's series marks Minnesota's final WCHA regular-season series before the team transitions to the Big Ten Conference in 2013-14. The Gophers were founding members of the WCHA in 1951 (in what was then called the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League) and have won 13 WCHA regular-season titles (including last year's MacNaughton Cup) and 14 WCHA playoff titles.
A Look at the League
The tightest battle in the history of the WCHA will come down to the wire this weekend with the MacNaughton Cup and home-ice in the first round still up for grabs. The top five teams in the league are all within striking distance of the regular-season crown while seven programs are still in the hunt for home ice. St. Cloud State is the current front runner with 35 points followed by Minnesota and North Dakota at 33 points each. Minnesota State and Wisconsin are tied at 31 points each while Omaha (30) and Denver (29) are still in the running for home ice. According to the WCHA, Minnesota has not clinched home ice for the playoffs but can with at least one point this weekend.
Wilcox Earns WCHA Weekly Honors
Rookie goaltender Adam Wilcox was named the Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week following Minnesota's split with the Pioneer last weekend. Wilcox turned away 65 of 67 shots over the weekend and allowed just one even-strength goal. The freshman made 34 saves -- one off his career-high set two weeks ago against Minnesota Duluth -- on Friday before making another 31 in More on Wilcox Wilcox, who has started the last 31-straight games for Minnesota, is tied for the second most wins in the nation this year and needs just two more wins to tie John Blue for second on Minnesota's rookie wins list (23-10-0 in 1984-85). Kellen Briggs' owns the Gophers rookie record for wins at 25-11-3, set in 2003-04. The rookie, who ranks seventh in the nation with a goals against average of 1.84, is also on pace to compete for Minnesota single-season records for GAA and 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).
This weekend will mark a special occasion for junior Tom Serratore -- the Minnesota forward's uncle, Tom, is the head coach of the Beavers' men's team. Serratore, who also played against his father, Frank (also a Bemidji State alum), earlier this season will likely make his 100th career appearance with the Gophers this weekend. In 99 career games, Serratore has tallied 15 points (12 goals, three assists) including a career-high seven goals and eight points this season as a junior.
Good Luck Charms
Jake Parenteau and Kyle Rau both tallied assists in Minnesota's 5-1 win over Denver last Saturday. The Gophers are 6-0-1 when Parenteau, a junior, has scored while the team is 19-1-1 this season when Rau tallies a point.
No Place Like Home
Mariucci Arena continues to be kind to the Gophers in 2012-13 as the team prepares for its final regular-season home series at the venue. Minnesota is 14-3-3 on its home ice this season and looking back even further, the team is 31-9-3 at Mariucci Arena since the start of the 2011-12 season. Against Ranked Teams Last weekend marked the Gophers' 15th and 16th game against a nationally ranked opponent this season. Minnesota is 10-4-2 this year against ranked teams and has played a ranked foe in 16 of the last 21 games. 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).
The Best in the Nation
Minnesota ranks first nationally in both scoring offense and power play this year. The Gophers have successfully converted .254 percent of their power-play chances this year (37-for-151) while the Minnesota offense leads the nation with 122 total goals and an average of 3.59 goals per game. Minnesota also leads the nation in assists (213), points (335), and points per game (9.85).
The Best in the WCHA
In addition to the nation's top offense and power play, Minnesota also features the WCHA's top scoring defense and penalty kill. The Gophers' defense has allowed just 67 goals against this year, compared to 122 goals scored by the Maroon and Gold, and is averaging just 1.97 goals against per game (Minnesota ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense). On the penalty kill, the Gophers have successfully killed .867 percent (91-for-105) of opponents' power-play chances (Minnesota ranks tied for eighth nationally in the category). The Gophers are the only team in the country to be ranked among the top 10 for all four team statistics.