June 6, 2013
The Minnesota men's hockey program closed out the 2012-13 season -- Minnesota's final campaign in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) -- with a share of the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champions, the program's 34th NCAA tournament appearance and a 26-9-5 overall record. The Gophers also led nation with an 8-0-0 record in nonconference regular-season play while going 16-7-5 in WCHA regular-season action. The Gophers' season came to an end with a 3-2 overtime loss to eventual NCAA Champion Yale in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
Schmidt Earns All-America Marks
Junior Nate Schmidt was named a Second Team All-American following the 2012-13 season after leading the WCHA in scoring by a defenseman with 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists). Schmidt tied for the third most points by a defenseman in the NCAA this season and recorded 74 points and 12 goals in 96 career games. Schmidt saw the ice in nearly every situation for the Gophers including quarterbacking the nation's top power play.
Minnesota had four players named to an All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association team this season. Junior defenseman Nate Schmidt was named to the All-WCHA First Team as the top scoring defenseman in the league this season while junior forward Erik Haula earned All-WCHA Second Team honors after leading the Gophers in scoring and ranking among the top point getters in the league this year. Junior forward Nick Bjugstad and freshman goalie Adam Wilcox were named All-WCHA Third Team honorees while the Gophers also placed 17 student-athletes on the 2012-13 All-WCHA Academic Team.
Lucia Wins 600
Minnesota's 3-2 win over Michigan Tech on Oct. 20, 2012 gave Minnesota head coach Don Lucia his 600th career win. Lucia -- heading into in his 27th year as a Division I head coach and his 15th year with the Gophers next season-- is just the 10th coach in NCAA history to win 600 games and the ninth to do so exclusively as a Division I head coach. Lucia currently owns a 623-337-88 overall coaching record including a 344-182-59 mark as the head coach of the Gophers.
Six Sign Pro Contracts
Six members of the Gophers squad signed professional contracts following the conclusion of the 2012-13 season. Junior Nick Bjugstad signed with the Florida Panthers and scored one goal in 11 NHL games while Nate Schmidt (Hershey Bears/Washington Capitals), Erik Haula (Houston Aeros/Minnesota Wild), Mark Alt (Adirondack Phantoms/Philadelphia Flyers), Zach Budish (Milwaukee Admirals/Nashville Predators) and Seth Helgeson (Albany Devils/New Jersey Devils) all saw action in the AHL following the conclusion of their college careers.
Big Ten Bound
The 2012-13 season marks Minnesota's final season in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association before moving into the new Big Ten Conference in 2013-14. The Gophers were founding members of the WCHA in 1951 (then called the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League). Joining Minnesota in the Big Ten will be current WCHA foe Wisconsin, former league members Michigan (CCHA) and Michigan State (CCHA), Ohio State (CCHA) and NCAA newcomer Penn State (Independent).
Haula Makes His Mark
For the second-straight year, Erik Haula was Minnesota's leading scorer -- making the junior the first Gopher to lead the team in points for back-to-back seasons since Thomas Vanek in 2002-03 and 2003-04. Haula also set a new career high with 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in just 37 games this season, improving on his 49 points as a sophomore in 2011-12. Haula ended his career with 124 points (42 goals, 82 assists) in 114 games.
Wilcox Shines in Rookie Campaign
Rookie netminder Adam Wilcox started the last 37 games of the 2012-13 season for Minnesota and picked up his 25th win of the season in the WCHA First Round to tie Kellen Briggs for the Minnesota rookie wins record. Wilcox (25-8-5) also set a new school record with a 1.88 GAA (first in the WCHA this season and sixth in the nation). The freshman also ranked second in the nation with 25 wins and third in the nation with 2,331 minutes played.
Roll With Rau
Seven of Kyle Rau's 15 goals this season were game winners -- tied for the most by any single player in the nation this year. Furthermore, Minnesota was 23-2-1 this season when the sophomore forward tallied a point. Only two Gophers have had more game-winning goals in a season than Rau -- Aaron Broten (10 in 1980-81) and Jeff Taffe (eight in 2001-02).
No Place Like Home
Mariucci Arena continued to be kind to the Gophers in 2012-13. Minnesota was 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.
Minnesota earned a share of its second-straight MacNaughton Cup and its fourth WCHA regular-season championship in the last eight years. The Gophers rallied from a four-point deficit on March 2 to tie St. Cloud State atop the league standings for Minnesota's 14th conference regular-season championship.
Lucia and The MacNaughton Cup
This year's MacNaughton Cup marked Minnesota head coach Don Lucia's seventh career WCHA regular-season championship -- a conference record. Lucia has won four MacNaughton Cups with the Gophers, twice going back-to-back in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and again in 2011-12 and 2012-13. Lucia also won three-straight regular-season league titles in his first three seasons with Colorado College (1993-94, 94-95, 95-96).
Power Play Advantage
Minnesota owned the nation's top power play this season at .246 (41-for-167) while the Gophers scored at least one power-play goal in every series of the 2012-13 schedule. This year's power-play unit was the best at Minnesota since the 2003-04 season (56-for-214, .262) when the Gophers finished the season as the top team in the nation while on the advantage.
Minnesota's Hot Offense
The Gophers also maintained the nation's top scoring offense this season with an average of 3.48 goals per game. The Gophers scored 139 total goals this year behind only St. Cloud State's 141. The last time Minnesota had a better goals per game average was in 2006-07 when the team averaged 3.66 goals per game (the third best figure in the nation that season).
The Best In The WCHA
In addition to the nation's top offense and power play, Minnesota also featured the WCHA's top scoring defense and penalty kill. The Gophers' defense allowed just 80 goals against this year, compared to 139 goals scored by the Maroon and Gold, and is averaged just 2.00 goals against per game (Minnesota ranked third nationally in scoring defense). On the penalty kill, the Gophers successfully killed .860 percent (98-for-114) of opponents' power-play chances (Minnesota ranked 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. Furthermore, Minnesota ranked 58th out of 59 teams with an average of just 9.0 penalty minutes per game (only St. Cloud State was lower at 8.3).
OT Winner Keeps `U' Streaking
The Maroon & Gold have now won seven-straight games and nine of the last 10 contests.
Around the Rink: Connor Reilly
A native of Chanhassen, Minn., Reilly has collected 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 114 career games with the Gophers.
Border Battle on Deck
Friday’s series opener is set for 7 p.m. CT with Saturday’s finale scheduled for 5 p.m.