Big Ten Tournament Preview
March 19, 2014
The No. 1 Minnesota men’s hockey program enters the inaugural Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament as the conference’s regular-season champion and the tournament’s top-seed this weekend at Xcel Energy Center. The Gophers will play the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal between fourth-seed Ohio State and fifth-seed Michigan State on Friday at 7:00 p.m. CT. Two-seed Wisconsin will play the winner of the other quarterfinal (third-seed Michigan and sixth-seed Penn State) at 2:00 p.m. on Friday. The 2014 Big Ten championship game is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday while all five games will be televised on the Big Ten Network and streamed on BTN2Go.com.
Big Ten Champions
Kyle Rau scored 2:44 into overtime on Friday to give Minnesota a 3-2 victory and capture the inaugural Big Ten regular-season championship. Justin Kloos and Brady Skjei also tallied for Minnesota. For the first time in program history, the Gophers have now won three-straight conference regular-season titles while the Minnesota senior class is the first in program history to earn three conference titles. Minnesota won back-to-back MacNaughton Cups as WCHA regular-season champions in 2012 and 2013.
Big Ten Awards
The Big Ten handed out its annual awards earlier this week with the top-ranked Gophers taking home four major awards and four all-conference honors. Adam Wilcox was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Goaltender of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten while Mike Reilly joined him as First Team All-Big Ten and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Kyle Rau was named Second Team All-Big Ten, and Hudson Fasching was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team. Don Lucia was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year after guiding the team to the regular-season title. Sam Warning, Ben Marshall, Brady Skjei and Fasching also represented the Gophers with All-Big Ten Honorable Mention accolades while Nate Condon was honored as a Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner.
Skjei Earns Big Ten Third Star
Sophomore defenseman Brady Skjei was named the Big Ten Third Star of the Week after tallying three of Minnesota’s five goals last weekend against Michigan. Skjei scored the team’s first goal on Friday in a 3-2 overtime win to clinch the regular-season Big Ten title and then added two goals on Saturday for his first career multi-goal game and just his second multi-point game. Selected 28th overall in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers, Skjei gives the Gophers a total of 22 weekly Big Ten honors from 11 different players this season.
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 28. 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.
At Home at Xcel Energy Center
The Golden Gophers are 21-12-0 (.636) all-time at Xcel Energy Center heading into the weekend. And the team will be no stranger to the venue the rest of the season. In addition to this weekend’s Big Ten tournament, the Gophers will also host the 2014 NCAA West Regional at the venue on March 29-30.
Nate Condon has skated in 153 consecutive games for Minnesota entering the weekend and is the program’s most veteran player at 154 games (38-60--98). 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 two points to reach the 100-career point milestone. Playing Nice Minnesota is the least penalized team in the Big Ten, averaging just 9.1 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 51 goals this season -- the most of any rookie class in the NCAA this season. The Minnesota newcomers have tallied .408 of the team’s 125 goals this season and are averaging 1.42 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 72 career games played, Wilcox has posted a 48-12-11 overall record. Out of those games, 33 have been played against nationally ranked foes with the sophomore netminder recording a 20-10-3 record against ranked teams. Wilcox (23-4-6) is third in the nation with 23 wins this season, third nationally in goals against average at 1.91 and third nationally in save percentage at .934.The sophomore leads the Big Ten in all three categories.
Best Offense is a Good Defense
Minnesota has given up an NCAA-low 72 goals against this season (tied first) and rank third nationally with an average of just 2.00 goals against per game (first in the Big Ten). Additionally, 25 of the Gophers’ 125 goals this season have come from defensemen including three goals from Brady Skjei last weekend.
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 62-9-6 all-time when the forward tallies a point including an incredible 41-4-5 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).
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.
Gophers in Sochi
Gopher Hockey had a total of six representatives at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi including Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler and Paul Martin on the U.S. roster and Thomas Vanek on Austria's roster. Former Gopher and current Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards served as an assistant coach for the U.S. men's team while Hobey Baker Award winner Robb Stauber was the goalie coach for the U.S. women and helped the team earn a silver medal in Sochi. Minnesota's four Olympians were tied for the most among college hockey programs at this year's Olympics while the Gophers' 54 all-time Olympians are by far the most in all of college hockey. The Gophers have a long-standing history of competition at the Winter Olympics with a representative at every Winter Olympics dating back to 1936.Between Minnesota's men's and women's programs, the University of Minnesota had a total of 14 representatives in Sochi -- the most among any college or university in the NCAA.