WCHA Final Five Preview: North Dakota vs. Minnesota
March 14: AUDIO: Gophers Talk Final Five
March 15: FEATURE STORY: Matson Leads Resurgent Gophers
North Dakota vs. Minnesota
Date: March 16, 2012
Last Time Out: Minnesota secured a trip to the WCHA Final Five with two wins last weekend against Alaska Anchorage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. The Gophers clipped the Seawolves on Friday 2-1 behind Erik Haula's two goals. On Saturday, Minnesota scored six unanswered goals to turn a 3-1 second-period deficit into a 7-3 final. Haula again led the Gophers with two goals and two assists on Saturday. Kent Patterson made 16 saves in each game and did not allow an even-strength goal all weekend. Minnesota will play either St. Cloud State or North Dakota at 7 p.m. on Friday at Xcel Energy Center.
Minnesota vs. North Dakota: The Gophers enter the weekend with a 143-129-14 record against rival North Dakota in 286 all-time meetings. Minnesota won the 2011-12 regular season series by taking three wins in four games against UND. The Gophers earned a home sweep on Nov. 4-5 before the teams split a pair of contests in Grand Forks, N.D. on Jan. 13-14. Minnesota holds a slim 12-11 advantage against North Dakota in WCHA Playoff competition, including a 3-3 mark at the Final Five. UND ended the Gophers' season in 2009-10 with a three-game, first-round series victory at home and Minnesota won its last Broadmoor Trophy by topping North Dakota 3-2 in overtime in 2007.
About North Dakota: After starting the season with 1-5-0 conference record, North Dakota hit its stride in late November and finished with a 16-11-1 WCHA record and earned the fourth seed in the league playoffs. UND, the two-time defending Broadmoor Trophy champion, beat Bemidji State in the first round of the playoffs and topped St. Cloud State 4-1 last night to advance to the semifinals. North Dakota, which has advanced to 10 straight Final Fives, is seeking its 11th WCHA Playoff title. North Dakota, which is 11-2-1 in its last 14 games, is led in scoring by sophomore and All-WCHA Third Team selection Brock Nelson (25g-17a) and junior Danny Kristo (18g-24a). Linemate Corban Knight, a junior, has 35 points (14g-22a). Defensively, UND is led by senior Ben Blood (3g-16a), freshman Nick Mattson (6g-12a), sophomore Dillon Simpson (2g-15a), and sophomore United States World Junior Championship team member Derek Forbort (1g-8a). In goal, junior Aaron Dell picked up the win last night against St. Cloud State. He has seen a majority of the action for North Dakota, going 15-9-2 with a 2.72 goals-against-average and an .899 save percentage. Senior Brad Eidsness, who has started six of the last nine games, is 8-3-1 with a 2.17 goals-against-average and a .920 save percentage.
In The Polls: The 26-12-1 Gophers are ranked No. 4 in both the USCHO poll and 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 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.
Back To The Final Five: Minnesota returns to the Final Five this weekend at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for the first time since 2009. The Gophers lost to Minnesota Duluth 2-1 in their last Final Five appearance on March 19, 2009. Minnesota's last Final Five win was a 2-1 overtime victory against Colorado College on March 21, 2008. The Gophers last won the Broadmoor Trophy in 2007.
MacNaughton Cup Champions: With a 2-1 win against Wisconsin on March 3, the Gophers claimed sole possession of their 13th WCHA regular season championship and 12th MacNaughton Cup. Minnesota finished the regular season with a 20-8-0 WCHA record and 40 points, which was three points more than Minnesota Duluth (16-7-5 record). The Gophers won the title for the first time since 2006-07. Minnesota has now won three of the last seven MacNaughton Cups, as they also won the Cup in 2005-06 (20-5-3 WCHA record) and in 2006-07 (18-7-3 WCHA record).
All-WCHA Teams: Minnesota had four players named to an All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association team this season. Senior Kent Patterson and sophomore Nick Bjugstad were named to the All-WCHA First Team, while sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt was named to All-WCHA Second Team. Freshman Kyle Rau was named to the All-WCHA Rookie Team. Patterson also won the WCHA Goaltending Champion title with a 2.06 goals-against average while playing 1659:41 in 28 league games. In addition, Minnesota placed 15 student-athletes on the 2011-12 All-WCHA Academic Team.
Saturday Night Success: By winning last Saturday, Minnesota improved to 15-3-1 on Saturdays this year. The Gophers went 13-1-0 in WCHA regular-season games on Saturdays. Minnesota's last Saturday loss was its only Saturday WCHA loss, a 4-3 defeat in Denver on Feb. 11.
Home Ice: The Gophers went 17-6-0 at Mariucci Arena this season and closed the year by winning seven of their last eight home games. It is the first time that the Gophers won 17 home games since they went 17-4-1 in the 2005-06 season. The most games that Minnesota has won in one season at the current Mariucci Arena is 18 (happened in 1995-96, 2000-01 and 2001-02).
Two With 40: Erik Haula leads Minnesota with 44 points (19g-25a) in 39 games this year. His 44 points are the most by a Gopher since the 2007-08 season. That year Ryan Stoa had 46 points in 36 games and Jordan Schroeder had 45 points in 35 games. Nick Bjugstad has 40 points (24g-16a) this year giving Minnesota two 40-point scorers in one season since Stoa and Schroeder accomplished the team in 2007-08.
Six With 30: Minnesota has six players--Erik Haula, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, Nate Schmidt, Jake Hansen and Zach Budish--who have scored at least 30 points this season. It is the first time since the 2005-06 season that the Gophers have had six players reach 30 points. That year Jay Barriball, Kyle Okposo, Mike Vannelli, Alex Goligoski, Blake Wheeler and Ben Gordon all scored at least 30 points. Nate Condon has 27 points this year. If he is able to get to 30 points, it will be the first time since the 2001-02 season that Gopher would have seven 30-point scorers. That year, John Pohl, Jeff Taffe, Jordan Leopold, Troy Riddle, Paul Martin, Grant Potulny and Matt Koalska all had at least 30 points.
Just Wins: The Gophers are 26-12-1 this year. The 26 wins are the most for Minnesota since it went 31-10-3 in the 2006-07 season. The Gophers were 20-8-0 in the WCHA this year. The 20 WCHA wins are the most that the Gophers have had since they went 20-5-3 in 2005-06. The Gophers did not tie a single WCHA game this year. It was the first time since the 1997-98 season (12-16-0 in the WCHA) that Minnesota did not tie a WCHA game. The last time that Minnesota tied only one game all season was the 2004-05 season (team went 28-15-1 that year).
Goaltending Update: Senior goaltender Kent Patterson has started 60 straight games for Minnesota, a streak that began on Dec. 4, 2010 at Minnesota State. During his streak, Patterson played a consecutive 3414:13 before giving way to sophomore netminder Michael Shibrowski (five saves) in the third period against Wisconsin on March 2. Patterson was also replaced in the third period last Saturday against Alaska Anchorage by senior Jake Kremer for the final 44 seconds of the game. Kremer, who has served as the team's third goaltender for the last four years, did not face a shot. The last time Minnesota used three goalies during one season was 2006-07. That year, Alex Kangas played 1966:45, while Jeff Frazee played 797:58 and Brent Solei played 59:53.
No Even-Strength Goals Allowed: The Gophers have not allowed an even-strength goal in 194:35. The last even-strength goal that Minnesota allowed was against Wisconsin at 5:25 mark of the second period on March 3. Since then, Minnesota has allowed seven goals, but they were all power-play goals. In the same timeframe, the Gophers have scored nine even-strength goals (have scored 12 goals total, including two on the power play and one shorthanded).
Close Encounters: The Gophers are 26-12-1 on the season. Of their 12 defeats, nine have been by one goal (including two in overtime). Minnesota's other three setbacks were by two and three goals, respectively. The Gophers lost 3-1 at Wisconsin on Nov. 11 and 5-3 at Denver on Feb. 11. They also lost 4-1 to Wisconsin on March 2. Minnesota has played in 20 one-goal games this year and is 11-9-0 in those games (have won seven of its last eight one-goal games). The 20 one-goal games is a season record (previous was 18 games during the 2006-07 season).
139 Goals: Minnesota has scored 139 goals through 39 games this year. The Gophers scored 113 goals all of last season (36 games). The 139 goals are the most that Minnesota has scored since it tallied 161 goals in 44 games during the 2006-07 season.
First And Third: Minnesota has dominated the first and third periods this season. The Gophers are outscoring their opponents 41-21 in the first period this year and 51-18 in the third period. Overall, Minnesota has scored 139 goals this season and given up 82.
Potent Offense, Stingy Defense: The Gophers have the third best offense and defense in the nation. The Gophers are averaging 3.56 goals-per-game (Minnesota Duluth leads with a 3.66 average, while Boston University if second at 3.59). Minnesota allows only 2.10 goals a game which is third behind Union (1.83) and Miami (1.97).
Youth Movement: Minnesota's freshman and sophomore classes have dominated the stat sheets this year, as seven of the nine players who have 20 points or more have either freshman or sophomore eligibility. The Gophers have 372 points this year (139g-233a) and the freshmen (78 points) and sophomore (218 points) classes have combined to score 296 points (79.5 percent). They have also scored 109 goals (78.4 percent) and dished out 187 assists (80.2 percent).
Minnesota Nice: The Gophers finished the regular season with a 9-1-0 record against Minnesota schools. They were 2-0-0 against Bemidji State, Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State and 3-1-0 against St. Cloud State.
Schmidt Assists: Nate Schmidt leads the team and ranks tied for fourth in the nation with 33 assists. Schmidt needs two more assists to tie Dan Trebil (35 assists in 1995-96) for tenth all-time in assists by a defenseman in a season. Three more assists would tie him with Larry Olimb and associate head coach Mike Guentzel for eighth all-time in one season.