Weekend Preview: North Dakota
Last Time Out: Minnesota won both games at Alaska Anchorage last weekend, becoming the first team to earn a sweep at Sullivan Arena since St. Cloud State on Dec. 4-5, 2009. It was the Gophers first sweep in Anchorage since Feb. 2-3, 2007 (8-2 and 2-1 wins). On Friday, Kent Patterson made 22 saves and Erik Haula had two goals and one assist as Minnesota powered its way to a 5-0 win. The Gophers also got goals from Justin Holl, Mark Alt and Nick Bjugstad. On Saturday, Zach Budish, Nate Condon and Kyle Rau (Condon and Rau goals were shorthanded) scored in a 3-1 win. Patterson made 26 saves, allowing only one power-play goal.
Minnesota vs. North Dakota: The Gophers and North Dakota will renew one of the most storied rivalries in college hockey this weekend. North Dakota visits Mariucci Arena for the first time since January 15-16, 2010, when Minnesota followed a 3-3 tie with a 5-1 win. North Dakota eliminated the Gophers in a three-game WCHA playoff series in Grand Forks, N.D. later that season and the two teams split their lone 2010-11 series, also in North Dakota. Minnesota owns a 140-128-14 advantage in the all-time series and is 76-52-6 at home. The Gophers visit North Dakota on January 13 and 14.
About North Dakota: North Dakota fell two wins short of its eighth national championship last season, losing 2-0 to Michigan at the 2011 Frozen Four in St. Paul. UND did win the 2010-11 WCHA regular season and postseason titles, however, claiming its second MacNaughton Cup in three years and its second straight Broadmoor Trophy. In the offseason, the team lost 294 points worth of production. The seven seniors from that squad, including Hobey Baker Award finalist Matt Frattin, are gone, as well as two of its top three non-senior scorers in Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall. North Dakota has struggled in WCHA play so far this season, starting 1-3-0. UND was swept on the road by Wisconsin before splitting a home series against St. Cloud last weekend, moving the team's overall record to 3-4-1. North Dakota is led in scoring by Danny Kristo (4g-8a) and leading returning scorer Corban Knight (4g-6a). Highly-touted freshman Rocco Grimaldi returned to action last week against SCSU after missing five games due to injury. He has one assist in three games. Rookie Nick Mattson (2g-3a) leads a strong UND defensive core with five points and former second-team AHCA All-American goaltender Aaron Dell is off to a 2-3-1 start with a 3.41 goals against average and a .843 save percentage.
A Good October...: The Gophers went 7-1-0 in October. It was the first time that Minnesota won at least seven games in October since the 1987-88 season. That year the Gophers were 8-0-0 in October.
...And A Good Start To The Year: After earning two wins in Alaska, the Gophers are now 7-1-0 on the year. Minnesota is off to its best start since the 2006-07 season. That year the Maroon and Gold lost its first game of the season to Maine, but then won its next eight games to start the year 8-1-0.
Four Shutouts For Patterson: Goaltender Kent Patterson entered the season with zero career shutouts. He now has four in eight games this year. Patterson began the year with three straight home blankings (Gophers won their first three homes games by shutout for the first time since the 1928-29 season), beating Sacred Heart (twice) and Vermont. He picked up his first road shutout last Friday making 22 saves at Alaska Anchorage. Through eight games, the senior is 7-1-0 and has a 1.74 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage. One more shutout would tie Patterson with Robb Stauber for the most in one season. Stauber posted five shutouts during the 1987-88 season. Patterson is currently tied with Kellen Briggs (2003-04, 2004-05) and Jim Mattson (1952-53) for second in program history with four shutouts in a season.
We Said It Was A Good October: For the sixth time in Gopher Hockey history, Minnesota recorded four shutouts in the same month. The feat was last accomplished in February of 1988 and had not been done before that since January of 1939. Kent Patterson posted all four of the team's shutouts in October, becoming the third recorded Gopher goaltender to shutout an opponent more than three times in the same month by himself. Robb Stauber did it in his Hobey Baker Award-winning season in 1988 and George Clausen pulled it off in February of 1934.
Goals, Goals, Goals: The Gophers have the No. 1 offense in the nation and are averaging 5.38 goals-per game (Michigan is second with a 4.88 average). Minnesota has scored at least three goals in every game and has scored four or more goals in seven of its eight games and five or more goals in six of its eight 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 (for teams who have played more than one game). The Gophers are 14-of-39 on the power play for a 35.90 success rate (Union is second at 11-of-32 for 34.38 percent). Freshman Kyle Rau leads the Maroon and Gold (and is tied for second in the nation) with four power-play goals.
Once Every 20 Minutes: Minnesota has played 25 periods of hockey this year (counting the overtime at Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 15) and has scored in 24 of them. The only frame that the Gophers did not score in was the third period of a 6-0 win against Vermont on Oct. 21. Minnesota has scored 13 goals in the first period, 17 in the second period, 12 in the third period and one in overtime this year.
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).
Shorthanded Goals: The Gophers scored two shorthanded goals in Saturday's 3-1 win at Alaska Anchorage. Nate Condon scooped up a Kent Patterson rebound in the second-period and eluded two Seawolves en route to a breakaway goal. Kyle Rau scored an empty-net shorthanded goal with 47 seconds left in the game to secure the win. The last time Minnesota had two shorthanded goals in a game was Feb. 25, 2011, against Michigan Tech. In that game, Nick Bjugstad scored two shorthanded goals with one being an empty-net goal.
Unassisted Goals: The Gophers scored two unassisted goals on Saturday in beating the Seawolves 3-1, as both Nate Condon and Kyle Rau's shorthanded goals were unassisted. Minnesota entered Saturday's game with 40 goals in seven games, but only two of them had been unassisted. The Gophers now have four unassisted goals this year (out of 43 total goals).
O From The D: Minnesota has scored 43 goals this year and 38 of them have been scored by forwards. However, four of the last 12 goals that the Gophers have scored have come from defensemen. Justin Holl has two goals in the last three games, while Nate Schmidt and Mark Alt also have found the net in the last three games. The other goal scored by a blueliner this year came from Ben Marshall in the second game of the season.
Haula Leads The Nation...: Sophomore Erik Haula began the year with at least a point in seven straight games. He did not record a point in his eighth game of the year, last Saturday at Alaska Anchorage. Haula has six multiple-point games this year and leads the nation with 17 points (second place has 14 points). Haula is tied for third nationally (with teammate Kyle Rau and two others) in goals (7) and tied for second (with teammate Nate Schmidt and one other) in assists (10).
...So Does Rau: Freshman Kyle Rau has at least one point in seven of eight games this year and has six multiple-point games (including four straight games). Rau leads all freshmen nationally and is tied for fourth among all players with 13 points (freshman Cole Gunner of Air Force has 11 points). Rau tops all freshmen in the nation with seven goals and is tied for second with six assists.
Schmidt Tied For First: Defenseman Nate Schmidt is tied for first nationally in points for a defenseman with Wisconsin's Justin Schultz. Both players have one goal and 10 assists (tied for second in the nation with teammate Erik Haula) for 11 points (tied for 11th in the nation).
Super Sophomores: Minnesota's sophomore class has been leading the way for the Gophers this year. In eight games, the sophomore class has combined for 67 points (25g-42a). Five of the Gophers' top seven scorers are sophomores (including redshirt sophomore Zach Budish). Erik Haula leads the team with 17 points (7g-10a). 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 six 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 two points. The class has combined for 28 points (13g-15a).
Missouri Connection: Freshmen Sam Warning of Minnesota and Michael Parks of North Dakota will turn from friends into foes this weekend. The two Missouri-natives played with each other on the St. Louis Selects midget team and were on the same Cedar Rapids RoughRiders squad in the USHL last year. They also played together on the U.S. Under-18 Select Team at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial in Piestany, Slovakia. Each player has played in all eight of his team's games in 2010-11. Warning has posted six points (3g-3a), while Parks recorded his only point by scoring a goal in a 3-1 win over Maine.