Weekend Preview: Vermont
Last Time Out: Minnesota improved to 4-0-0 on the season after it swept defending champion Minnesota Duluth on the road last weekend. On Friday, the Gophers built a 2-0 first-period lead only to see the Bulldogs come back and tie the game in the second period. The teams entered the final 20 minutes tied 3-3 and it looked like Minnesota Duluth would prevail when it went ahead 4-3 with just two minutes left in the game. However, Minnesota fought back and Erik Haula scored the equalizer (a 6-on-5 goal) with 44 seconds left in the game. Sophomore Nate Condon then won the game for the Gophers as he batted the puck out of midair to stun netminder Kenny Reiter with 56 seconds left in overtime. On Saturday, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but the Gophers then scored the next five goals. Minnesota Duluth scored two third-period goals to close the game to 5-4, but the Gophers held on for their fourth straight win. Kent Patterson made a career high 46 saves in each game. Nick Bjugstad had five points (1g-4a) on the weekend, while Nate Condon had four points (3g-1a) and Kyle Rau had three goals.
Minnesota vs. Vermont: The Gophers and Catamounts have never skated on the same ice together as this is the first meeting between the two hockey-driven schools. Vermont is the only team from Hockey East that the Gophers have not faced. Minnesota is 80-47-7 all-time against Hockey East opponents.
About Vermont: Vermont returns four of its top five scorers for the 2011-12 campaign, including its top two scorers from last year in juniors Sebastian Stalberg and Chris McCarthy. Stalberg paced the Catamounts with nine goals and 19 assists for a team-high 28 points, while McCarthy played in all 36 games and ranked second on the team in scoring with 20 points. Connor Brickley is the second highest NHL draft pick in program history, selected 50th overall in the second round of the 2010 draft by Florida. He had four goals and nine assists last year as a freshman. On the blueline, senior Drew MacKenzie and sophomore Nick Bruneteau represent two of the most dangerous offensive defensemen in Hockey East. Both ranked top-15 in scoring among league defensemen last year, and Bruneteau finished the year with the fourth-most points of any rookie defenseman in the conference. Between the pipes, starting goaltender Rob Madore returns for his senior season after posting a 2.98 goals against average and a .907 save percentage last year. Madore was named the team's MVP.
In The Polls: With a 4-0-0 start, the Gophers have climbed in the national polls. Minnesota began the year ranked No. 19 in the USCHO.com poll and then climbed to No. 14 after sweeping Sacred Heart at home. After dispatching Minnesota Duluth on the road last week the Gophers are now ranked No. 8 by USCHO.com. Minnesota began the year unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll, but entered the poll at No. 14 after the first week of play. After two weeks, the Gophers are No. 10 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll. The last time the Gophers were a top 10 team was at the beginning of the 2009-10 season when Minnesota began the year ranked No. 8.
Beating The Champs: Minnesota swept defending national champion Minnesota Duluth last weekend on the road. Since the Gophers won back-to-back national championships in 2002 and 2003, they have now played 15 games against defending national champions. After sweeping the Bulldogs, the Gophers are now 11-3-1 in those games. Minnesota went 2-1 against Denver the year after the Pioneers won the 2004 title. The Gophers were 3-1 against Denver after the Pioneers won the 2005 championship. Minnesota was 4-1 against Wisconsin the year after the Badgers won the 2006 title. Minnesota and Michigan State tied 3-3 in their lone meeting the year after the Spartans won the 2007 championship.
Sweep!: The Gophers swept in-state rival Minnesota Duluth for the first time since Nov. 3-4, 2006 when they beat the Bulldogs in Duluth last weekend. Those games had a similar outcome to the games this past weekend. In 2006, Minnesota beat the Bulldogs 3-2 on both nights and won the second game in overtime. Last weekend, the games were both one-goal games as well (5-4 outcomes) and Minnesota won in overtime on Friday. It was the first time that Minnesota swept a road series since the Gophers went to Houghton, Mich., last year and beat Michigan Tech 6-4 and 4-1 on Nov. 19-20.
First Time For Everything: Minnesota’s 5-4 overtime win against Minnesota Duluth on Friday was the Gophers’ first ever win at Amsoil Arena, which opened last year. After this weekend, Minnesota is now 2-1-1 at the Bulldogs’ new arena.
4-0-0: Minnesota is 4-0-0 for the first time since 2001-02, when it won its first six games and started 11-0-2. The Gophers ended that season with a 32-8-4 record and won the national championship.
Road Trip: Minnesota was 7-4-3 on the road last year and is now 2-0-0 away from Mariucci this season. The Gophers scored 50 goals on the road a season ago for an average of 3.57 goals per game. This year, after two games, the Gophers are averaging 5.00 goals a game on the road.
Patterson Against Duluth: Minnesota Duluth brings out the best in senior goaltender Kent Patterson. In his last six games against the Bulldogs, Patterson has a 2-1-2 record and has made 37, 41, 40, 36, 46 and 46 saves. Patterson made a career-high 46 saves in each game this past weekend and in eight career games against Minnesota Duluth, he is 3-2-3 and has a .931 save percentage.
Condon, Bjugstad Against Duluth: Like Patterson, sophomores Nate Condon and Nick Bjugstad have played very well against Minnesota Duluth. In six career games, Bjugstad has eight points (1g-7a) against the Bulldogs, while Condon has seven points (4g-3a).
Back To Kent: Kent Patterson is one of eight goaltenders in the nation to play in four games this year. He joins Michigan’s Shawn Hunwick and Lake Superior’s Kevin Kapalka as the only goalies with a 4-0-0 record this year. Patterson is 13th in the nation (11th among goalies who have played at least two games) with a .943 save percentage and leads the nation with two shutouts.
Timing Is Everything: Kent Patterson has played 242:51 in four games this year, which is third most of any goalie in the nation. Bowling Green’s Andrew Hammond has played 245:00, while Clarkson’s Paul Karpowich has been in net for 244:27.
Streak Ended, But Not The Ws: Kent Patterson began his senior season with a shutout streak of 144:35 seconds. After winning his first two games by shutout, he did not allow a goal in the first period against Minnesota Duluth. The first goal he yielded all year was to the Bulldogs’ Caleb Herbert who scored on a great individual effort at the 5:12 mark of the second period on Friday. Patterson is 4-0-0 on the year.
Goals, Goals, Goals: Minnesota has the most potent offense in the nation, as the Gophers are averaging 6.25 goals a game through four games. Sophomore Erik Haula leads the team with five goals.
Once Every 20 Minutes: Minnesota has scored a goal in all 13 periods this year (including overtime last Friday). The Gophers have seven first-period goals, nine second-period goals and eight third-period goals.
Powerful Play: Minnesota also has the No. 1 power-play in the country, which is clicking at 39.13% (9-of-23).Six different Gophers have scored a power-play goal this year. Freshman Kyle Rau has three, while sophomore Erika Haula has two. Senior Jake Hansen, redshirt sophomore Zach Budish, sophomore Nate Condon and freshman Seth Ambroz each have one. Minnesota ended last year with a 20.9 success rate on the power play (33-of-158).
Man Down: An area that plagued the Gophers last year was the penalty kill as Minnesota ended the year killing off only 77.4 percent of penalties they had taken. This year, Minnesota has killed 18-of-20 penalties it has taken for a 90.0 success rate.
Facing Off: Faceoffs were not one of the Gophers' strengths in 2010-11. The team won only 47.9 percent of its draws and Erik Haula was leader in faceoff percentage at among players who attempted more than 150 at 49.3 percent. This season has been different so far, as Minnesota has won 51.5 percent (139-for-270) of its faceoffs. Taylor Matson leads the team (minimum of 20 faceoffs) with a winning percentage of 61.5 percent (32-for-52).
Point Taken: Nine Gophers are averaging at least one point per game. Erik Haula (2.25 points/game) leads the way and is followed by Jake Hansen (2.00), Nick Bjugstad (1.75), Nate Condon (1.50), Nate Schmidt (1.50), Kyle Rau (1.25), Sam Warning (1.00), Taylor Matson (1.00) and Mark Alt (1.00). Five Gophers—Haula, Hansen, Condon, Matson and Schmidt—have recorded at least one point in all four games this year.
At The Top: The Gophers are well represented in the national scoring race. Sophomore Erik Haula is tied for first in the nation with nine points with two other players, while senior Jake Hansen is tied for fourth in the nation with eight points with two other players. Sophomore Nick Bjugstad is tied for seventh in the nation with seven points with seven other players.
Leading The Way: Sophomore Nate Schmidt leads all defensemen in the nation with six assists and ranks tied for second overall nationally with teammate Jake Hansen and T.J. Syner of Massachusetts. Five of Schmidt’s assists have come on the power play. Schmidt had one assist in 13 games last year and that came against Ferris State (1/1) when he was playing wing on the third line.
Wise Fools Score Points: Minnesota’s sophomore class has been leading the way for the Gophers this year. In four games, the sophomore class has combined for 38 points (13g-25a). Four of the Gophers’ top five scorers are sophomores, while Erik Haula leads the team with nine points (5g-4a).
No Negatives Here: The Gophers are a combined +52 on the season and every player is an even player or better. Freshman Ben Marshall leads the team with a +8 rating and is followed by Jake Hansen (+7) and Erik Haula (+6). Seventeen skaters are +1 or better for the Gophers, while Taylor Matson, Justin Holl, Christian Isackson and Nick Larson are all even for the season.
Facing Shots: The Gophers only allowed 40 combined shots (20 in each game) as they opened the season with wins against Sacred Heart. Last weekend, Minnesota gave up 100 shots (50 in each game) in two victories at Minnesota Duluth. Prior to last weekend the Gophers last game up 50 or more shots on Jan. 31, 1997, in a 6-4 loss at North Dakota.
Taking Shots: The Gophers took only 16 shots in last Saturday’s 5-4 win at Minnesota Duluth. The last time that Minnesota attempted less than 20 shots was March 14, 2010, in a 4-1 loss at North Dakota. The Gophers took 19 shots in that game. The fewest shots that Minnesota took last season was 22.
Minnesota Blanks Sacred Heart: Minnesota began the year with 9-0 and 6-0 home wins against Sacred Heart. The shutouts were the first and second of senior goaltender Kent Patterson’s career and the first for Minnesota since Alex Kangas made 26 saves to beat Colorado College 3-0 on Feb. 19, 2010. Patterson made 20 saves on both nights and his 20 saves were the fewest in a Gopher shutout since Kellen Briggs also made 20 saves on Oct. 27, 2006 in a 3-0 win against Colorado College. The last Minnesota netminder to make less than 20 saves in a shutout was Jeff Frazee who needed to make only 10 saves in a 4-0 win against Alaska Anchorage on Feb. 25, 2006. Patterson was named Co-WCHA Defensive Players of the Week for his efforts. Patterson also became the first Minnesota goaltender to shutout the same opponent on consecutive nights since Adam Hauser whitewashed Alaska Anchorage in the WCHA playoffs on March 12-13, 1999. Hauser earned 4-0 and 1-0 wins. The last time that the Gophers had back-to-back shutouts was 2006. Minnesota beat Minnesota Duluth 7-0 on March 3 and 2-0 on March 4.