Weekend Preview: NCAA West Regional
Date: March 24-25, 2012
Weekend Overview: Minnesota enters the NCAA tournament with a 26-13-1 record. The Gophers are seeded second in the NCAA West Region and will face No. 3 seed Boston University at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, at Xcel Energy Center. North Dakota is the No. 1 seed and will face No. 4 seed Western Michigan at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. The semifinal winners will play at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 25 with the winner advancing to the NCAA Frozen Four on April 5-7 in Tampa, Fla.
In The Tournament: Minnesota will play in the NCAA tournament for the 33rd time this weekend when the Gophers face Boston University on Saturday. The Gophers last played in the NCAA tournament on March 28, 2008. Minnesota lost that day 5-2 to eventual national champion Boston College in the NCAA Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass. Minnesota is 50-33 all-time in the NCAA tournament.
Facing Boston University: Both Minnesota and Boston University have won five national championships. Minnesota's most recent title was in 2003, while the Terriers won college hockey's ultimate prize in 2009. Minnesota is 4-3 all-time against the Terriers in the NCAA tournament (11-12-2 overall). However, Boston University has won two straight NCAA tournament games against Minnesota and both games were in the national semifinals. The Terriers ended the Gophers' season in 1994 and 1995. Boston University won 4-1 on March 31, 1994, at the St. Paul Civic Center and 7-3 on March 30, 1995, at the Providence Civic Center in Providence, R.I.
Facing North Dakota: Minnesota and North Dakota know one another well. The Gophers are 3-2-0 against North Dakota this year, but lost 6-3 last Friday to North Dakota in the WCHA Final Five. The Gophers lead the all-time series 143-130-14. The teams have met three times in the NCAA tournament. Minnesota is 1-2 in those games, but the lone win came in the 1979 NCAA championship game.
Facing Western Michigan: The Gophers have never faced Western Michigan in the NCAA tournament. In fact, the two teams have met only once and that was a 9-3 Bronco win on Dec. 17, 1989, in Anchorage, Alaska.
In The Polls: The 26-13-1 Gophers are ranked No. 6 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.
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.
Final Five Recap: Minnesota returned to the Final Five last weekend at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for the first time since 2009. The Gophers lost 6-3 to North Dakota in semifinals last Friday.
Saturday Night Success: Minnesota is 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 46 points (19g-27a) in 40 games this year. His 46 points are the most by a Gopher since the 2007-08 season. That year Ryan Stoa had 46 points in 36 games. One more point for Haula would make him the highest-scoring Gopher in one season since Phil Kessel had 51 points in 39 games in 2005-06. Nick Bjugstad has 40 points (24g-16a) this year giving Minnesota two 40-point scorers in one season since Stoa and Jordan Schroeder (45 points) accomplished the feat 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 26-13-1 this year. The 26 wins are the most for Minnesota since it went 31-10-3 in 2006-07. 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 61 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 on March 10 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.
Close Encounters: The Gophers are 26-13-1 on the season. Of their 13 defeats, nine have been by one goal (including two in overtime). Minnesota's other four 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 and 6-3 to North Dakota on March 16. 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).
142 Goals: Minnesota has scored 142 goals through 40 games this year. The Gophers scored 113 goals all of last season (36 games). The 142 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 42-21 in the first period this year and 51-23 in the third period. Overall, Minnesota has scored 142 goals this season and given up 88.
Potent Offense, Stingy Defense: The Gophers are tied for fourth nationally in offense and have the seventh-best defense in the nation. The Gophers are tied with Union as both teams average 3.55 goals-per-game (Minnesota Duluth leads with a 3.64 average, while Minnesota's NCAA tournament opponent Boston University is second at 3.58). Minnesota allows only 2.20 goals a game. Union leads the nation allowing only 1.82 goals-per-game.
Youth Movement: Minnesota's freshman and sophomore classes have dominated the stat sheets this year, as seven of the nine players who have 20 or more points have either freshman or sophomore eligibility. The Gophers have 381 points this year (142g-239a) and the freshmen (80 points) and sophomore (224 points) classes have combined to score 304 points (79.7 percent). They have also scored 111 goals (78.1 percent) and dished out 193 assists (80.7 percent).
Schmidt Assists: Nate Schmidt leads the team and ranks fourth in the nation with 35 assists. Schmidt is now tied with Dan Trebil (35 assists in 42 games in 1995-96) for tenth all-time in assists by a defenseman in a season. One more assist would tie him with Larry Olimb and associate head coach Mike Guentzel for eighth all-time in one season.
Bonus Hockey: Minnesota is 2-2-1 in overtime games this year. The Gophers have overtime wins at Nebraska Omaha (Jake Parenteau scored the game-winner) and at Minnesota Duluth (Nate Condon scored the game-winner). Minnesota tied at Michigan State and lost to Michigan Tech and at Denver in overtime this year.
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.