Weekend Preview: Alaska Anchorage
Oct. 25, 2011
Last Time Out: Minnesota went 1-1 last weekend against Vermont. The Gophers won 6-0 on Friday, but fell 5-4 on Sunday to suffer its first loss of the season. Minnesota was led by offensively by Erik Haula (5a), Kyle Rau (2g-2a), Jake Hansen (1g-2a), Nate Schmidt (1g-2a) and Zach Budish (1g-2a). Kent Patterson picked up his third shutout of the season (and of his career) on Friday making 17 saves. Patterson made 20 saves on Sunday.
Minnesota vs. Alaska Anchorage: Last year, the Minnesota-Alaska Anchorage rivalry intensified when UAA became the first-ever team to end a Gopher Hockey season at the current Mariucci Arena with a two-game sweep in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. This happened 42 days after the two teams split a pair of games in the same venue in late January. Then-freshman Chris Kamal started in goal for the all three Seawolves' wins against UM last year and recorded two shutouts in the process. Minnesota owns a 50-19-7 advantage in the all-time series between the schools and is 13-3-2 in nine trips to Anchorage under head coach Don Lucia.
About Alaska Anchorage: Alaska Anchorage finished in eighth place in the WCHA for the second-straight year last season before upsetting Minnesota in the first round of the conference playoffs and advancing to its second Final Five in program history. In 2011-12, the Seawolves are off to a 3-2-1 start. They played to a 4-4 tie with Clarkson in their first game before reeling off home wins against St. Cloud, Nebraska-Omaha, and Mercyhurst. Unfortunately for the UAA, the victories over SCSU and UNO did not count toward its WCHA conference record and the team was swept its first true WCHA series of the season last week in a road rematch against the Mavericks. Alaska Anchorage lost four of its top eight scorers from a year ago, but has received early-season production from junior Mickey Spencer (5g-2a), who missed a large chunk of 2010-11 due to injury. Fellow junior Daniel Naslund (2g-5a) shares the team lead in points with Spencer and sophomore Quinn Sproule has the most points among the team's defensemen with three (2g-1a). Goaltenders Chris Kamal and Rob Gunderson have split the team's six games between the pipes. Kamal is 2-1-0 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage, while Gunderson owns a 1-1-1 record and .909 save percentage while allowing 2.29 goals per 60 minutes. Gunderson's lone victory came in the form of a 23-save shutout against UNO.
In The Polls: With a 5-1-0 start, the Gophers are now ranked No. 8 in both major 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 two weeks ago they climbed to No. 8. After splitting with Vermont last weekend they remained No. 8. 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. They then moved to No. 10 after sweeping Minnesota Duluth and are now ranked No. 8 after splitting with Vermont. Prior to two weeks ago, 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.
How Long Ago?: Senior goaltender Kent Patterson earned his shutout of the season (best in the nation) with a 6-0 win against Vermont last Friday. Patterson made 17 saves as the Gophers won their first three homes games by shutout since the 1928-29 season.
Streak Snapped: Kent Patterson's home shutout streak of 210:44 came to an end 4:07 into the second period on Sunday when Vermont's Connor Brickley scored on a one-timer from Matt White. After allowing a goal with 6:37 left in the third period of the Gophers' final playoff game last season against Alaska-Anchorage (March 12), Patterson went more than ten full periods without allowing a goal on home ice.
These Guys Are Still Streaking: Sophomore Erik Haula and senior Jake Hansen have registered at least one point in every game this season. Haula has five multiple-point games this year and recorded a career-high three assists last Sunday against Vermont. Hansen has three multiple-point games this year and had a career-high four assists against Sacred Heart (Oct. 8).
These Guys Are Not: Sophomore Nate Condon and senior captain Taylor Matson began the year with points in each of their first five games, but had their point streaks snapped last Sunday against Vermont as both were held off the scoresheet.
Other Streaks: Minnesota's impressive unbeaten run against one of the top conferences in the nation, Hockey East, came to an last Sunday. The Gophers were 5-0-1 against Hockey East opponents since losing to Boston College 5-2 in the 2008 NCAA Regional in Worcester, Mass. before losing 5-4 to Vermont. Minnesota defeated Northeastern, Vermont, and Massachusetts (twice) and beat and tied New Hampshire in those six games. The Gophers run of five straight games with five or more goals, the longest such run for the program since the 2001-02 season, also came to an end in the loss. Minnesota gave its opponent more than six power-play chances for the first time all year, providing the Catamounts with a man advantage seven times. Minnesota scored a goal in its first 15 periods this year (including overtime against Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 14). The first period in which the Gophers did not score was the third period of their fifth game of the season, which was last Friday against Vermont.
O From The D: Minnesota has scored 35 goals this year and 32 of them have been scored by forwards. Entering last Sunday's game against Vermont, Ben Marshall was the only defenseman to score a goal on the season. Sophomore blueliners Justin Holl and Nate Schmidt notched their first goals of the year with blasts from the point in the second game against Vermont. Schmidt's goal was the first of his career. Holl scored for the first time since his first career game (29 total games played in between goals) last year against Massachusetts (Oct. 8).
Schmidt Leads The Nation...: Sophomore Nate Schmidt, who scored his first career goal on Sunday against Vermont, leads all defensemen in the nation in scoring with nine points (1g-8a). His eight assists tie him with teammate Jake Hansen and one other for third in the nation. 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.
...So Does Haula: Erik Haula is tied for first in the nation in scoring with 14 points with junior forward Jeremy Langlois of Quinnipiac. The sophomore center has five goals (tied for sixth in the nation) and nine assists (tied for first in the nation) in six games. His 2.33 points-per game average leads all players, as Langlois has played in two more games than Haula.
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.
5-1-0: Minnesota's 5-1-0 start is the best for the Gophers since the 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.
Super Sophomores: Minnesota's sophomore class has been leading the way for the Gophers this year. In six games, the sophomore class has combined for 53 points (18g-35a). Four of the Gophers' top six scorers are sophomores, while Erik Haula leads the team with 14 points (5g-9a). Nine sophomores have played at least one game this year and all of them have at least one points except for defenseman Jake Parenteau, who has played in four games.
Fine Freshmen: Minnesota's freshmen needed little time to get used to the college game. All seven of them have played in at least two games and all of them except Christian Isackson (two games played) have recorded at least one point. The class has combined for 23 points (12g-11a).
Minnesota Rau-Ser: Freshman Kyle Rau has six goals to lead the Gophers. His six strikes tie him for third in the nation with junior Travis Ouellette of Ferris State and senior Travis Oleksuk of Minnesota Duluth. Rau leads all freshmen in the nation with six goals and is tied with Cole Gunner (2g-7a) of Air Force for first in the nation in freshmen scoring with nine points. Rau is also tied for first in the nation with Alaska's Nik Yaremchuk with three game-winning goals.
Goals, Goals, Goals: The Gophers have the No. 1 offense in the nation and are averaging 5.83 goals-per game (Denver is second with a 5.25 average). Minnesota has scored at least four goals in every game and has scored five or more goals in five of its six games.
Powerful Play: One of the reasons that Minnesota has the most potent offense in the nation is its power play, which is also best in the country. The Gophers are 12-of-33 on the power play for a 36.36 success rate (Union is second at 8-of-23 for 34.78 percent). Freshman Kyle Rau leads the Maroon and Gold (and is tied for second in the nation) with four power-play goals.
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 29-of-33 penalties it has taken for an 87.9% success rate.
Point Taken: Eight Gophers are averaging at least one point per game. Erik Haula (2.33 points/game) leads the way and is followed by Jake Hansen (1.83), Nick Bjugstad (1.50), Nate Schmidt (1.50), Kyle Rau (1.50), Nate Condon (1.17), Sam Warning (1.00) and Zach Budish (1.00).
Keep Counting: Minnesota has scored 35 goals this year (15 against Sacred Heart and 10 each against Minnesota Duluth and Vermont) in six games this year. The last time that the Gophers scored 35 goals this early into the season was during their 2001-02 campaign. Minnesota opened that year with a 7-5 win at North Dakota, a 7-2 win against Bemidji State, a 7-1 win against Bemidji State, an 8-0 win against Colgate and a 9-0 win against Colgate to score 38 goals in their first five games.
Alternate Help: Redshirt sophomore Zach Budish and seniors Jake Hansen and Joey Miller were named alternate captains last week after a team vote. The trio will join senior captain Taylor Matson in leading the Gophers.
Young Bunch: Sixteen of Minnesota's 27 players are either true sophomores (9) or freshman (7). Add sophomore transfers Chris Student and Michael Shibrowski and redshirt sophomore Zach Budish and the Gophers have 19 players who are underclassmen eligibility wise. The Gophers' blueline is comprised of one junior, five sophomores and two freshmen. Twenty-four-year-old Joey Miller is Minnesota's oldest player and is six years and three days older than 18-year-old Travis Boyd, the team's youngest player.