No. 1 Gophers head to No. 13 Michigan
The inaugural Big Ten Conference regular-season wraps up this weekend as No. 1 Minnesota heads to Ann Arbor for a two-game league showdown with No. 13 Michigan. The Gophers have a five-point cushion in the Big Ten standings and can clinch a share of the league title with one point this weekend while two points clinch the outright title for Minnesota. Friday's series opener is set for 5:30 p.m. CT on ESPNews and Watch ESPN while Saturday's finale is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. CT on the Big Ten Network and BTN2Go.com. Radio broadcasts for both games are on the Gopher Radio Network and flagship station 1500ESPN.com.
Minnesota is 130-117-14 all-time against this weekend's opponent including a two-game sweep over the Wolverines at Mariucci Arena earlier this year. Michigan, however, has won the last two meetings with Minnesota in Ann Arbor. Five Gophers are tied for the team's active scoring lead against the Wolverines with three points each while Adam Wilcox is 2-0-0 against this weekend's opponent in his career.
Returning to Ann Arbor
While no current Gopher has played a collegiate game in Ann Arbor, the team does have three skaters who have called the Michigan town home at various points in their playing careers. Brady Skjei, Travis Boyd and Hudson Fasching are all products of the U.S. National Development Team Program, based out of Ann Arbor and competed for the USNDTP before joining the Gophers.
Mike Reilly Earns Big Ten Honors
After tallying four assists last weekend including a career-high three on Friday night, Mike Reilly was named the Big Ten Third Star of the Week. Reilly's eight goals, 20 assists and 28 points this season are all career highs for the sophomore while the blue liner leads all Big Ten defensemen in all three categories.
Fourth Line Contributions
Minnesota's fourth line of Connor Reilly, Gabe Guertler and Vinni Lettieri contributed six points last weekend including three goals against the Buckeyes. The trio each tallied a goal and an assist in the four-point weekend for the Gophers.
Big Ten Title Hopes
A Big Ten title for Minnesota would give the Gophers their third-straight conference regular-season championship -- a first in program history. The senior class would also become the first in Minnesota history to win three conference titles. The Gophers won back-to-back MacNaughton Cups in 2011-12 and 2012-13 as WCHA regular-season champions.
Winning Percentage Rankings
The Gophers are 24-4-6 this season with the program's .794 winning percentage ranking tied for first in the nation with Boston College (25-5-4).
Fasching Paces Big Ten Rookies
Hudson Fasching leads all Big Ten rookies with 12 goals this season and ranks second in points scored by conference newcomers with 27 (two off the Big Ten lead). Originally drafted by Los Angeles in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Fasching's rights were traded to Buffalo at the NHL trade deadline this season.
Nate Condon has skated in 151 consecutive games for Minnesota entering the weekend and is the program's most veteran player at 152 games (38-59--97). Condon has only missed one game in his four years with the program -- Oct. 9, 2010 against UMass (the second game of his freshman season). Condon needs just three points to reach the 100-career point milestone.
Minnesota is the least penalized team in the Big Ten, averaging just 9.3 penalty minutes per game. In fact, the Gophers rank 54th out of 59 team in the NCAA this season in penalty minutes per game.
There's No Place Like Home
The 2013-14 season marks the 20th campaign in which the Gophers have called Mariucci Arena home. The facility was officially opened on Aug. 21, 1993 with an alumni game. Since opening Mariucci Arena, Minnesota is 290-113-45 (.696) on home ice. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, the Gophers are 48-10-6 (.790) on home ice including an 15-1-3 (.853) mark this year (Minnesota's outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium was technically scored as a home game, but does not factor into this record). The one loss at Mariucci Arena this season marks the fewest losses at the venue in its 20-year history.
The Gophers freshman class has contributed 50 goals this season -- the most of any rookie class in the NCAA this season -- including five of Minnesota's seven goals last weekend. The Minnesota newcomers have tallied .417 of the team's 120 goals this season and are averaging 1.47 goals per game -- the highest ratio of any freshman class in the nation this year.
Wilcox Stands Out in Net
Sophomore Adam Wilcox is a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award and the new Mike Richter Award (given to the nation's top goaltender) as well as an All-America candidate. In 71 career games played, Wilcox has posted a 47-12-11 overall record. Out of those games, 32 have been played against nationally ranked foes with the sophomore netminder recording a 19-10-3 record against ranked teams. Wilcox (22-4-6) is tied for second in the nation and ranks first in the Big Ten with 22 wins this season, seventh nationally in goals against average at 1.91and sixth nationally in save percentage at .934.
Best Offense is a Good Defense
Minnesota has given up an NCAA-low 64 goals against this season and rank first nationally with an average of just 1.88 goals against per game. Additionally, 22 of the Gophers' 120 goals this season have come from defensemen.
No player on Minnesota's roster has been more of a lightning rod for the team's success that junior captain Kyle Rau. The team is 61-9-6 all-time when the forward tallies a point including an incredible 40-4-5 mark since the beginning of the 2012-13 season. Additionally, the Gophers are 30-2-0 all-time when Rau tallies more than one point in a game (8-0-0 this season) and are 6-0-0 when he tallies more than one goal in a game (1-0-0 this season). Rau had two goals and an assist last weekend in Columbus.
The Rest of the Way
Minnesota closed out the 2013-14 nonconference season with an 11-2-3 record -- the fourth best winning percentage among all NCAA teams at .781 (first among Big Ten teams) with 11 nonconference wins tied for first nationally with Notre Dame. Minnesota closes out the regular season this weekend at Michigan before competing at the inaugural Big Ten Tournament at Xcel Energy Center (Mar. 20-22) and then hosting the the NCAA West Regional at the X (Mar. 29-30).
Record Setting at the Hockey City Classic
The 2014 Hockey City Classic was held at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus last Friday with 45,021 fans cheering the Gophers to a 1-0 win over Ohio State in the first outdoor college hockey game in Minnesota in more than 80 years. The turnout stands as the largest crowd ever for a hockey game in the state of Minnesota.
A New Era of Gopher Hockey
The 93rd season of Gopher Hockey brings a new era to the program as Minnesota will compete in the new Big Ten Conference for the 2013-14 season. Six conference teams are set for the first campaign in the Big Ten with Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State joining the Gophers. Prior to the 2013-14 season, the Gophers were members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and helped found the conference in 1951.
Wilcox Moves Up the Record Book
Adam Wilcox's 19-save shutout on Feb. 1, 2014 against the Spartans was his third of the season and sixth overall as a Gopher. The South St. Paul, Minn., native is now seventh all-time at Minnesota in career shutouts and needs one more to tie Kent Patterson, Steve DeBus, John Blue and Jim Mattson for third all-time at Minnesota. Kellen Briggs holds the Gophers record for career shutouts at 13 with Adam Hauser in second at eight.