Gophers Head to Anchorage for WCHA Series
Nov. 6, 2012
The No. 2 Minnesota men's hockey team returns to Western Collegiate Hockey Association action this weekend on the road at Alaska Anchorage. The Gophers are 54-19-7 all-time against the Seawolves heading into the weekend including a total of four wins last season. Minnesota swept a regular-season series in Anchorage last season during the first half, topping the home team 5-0 on Oct. 28 before completing the sweep the next evening with a 3-1 win. The two conference foes also met in the first round of the WCHA playoffs -- this time in Minneapolis -- with the Gophers picking up wins of 2-1 and 7-3 to advance to the WCHA Final Five.
Last Time Out
Minnesota (5-2-0 overall, 2-2-0 WCHA) is coming off a home-and-home split with Minnesota State last weekend. In a series that has seen the home team win each of the last six meetings, Minnesota opened the weekend with a 3-2 come-from-behind rally on Friday night before falling 5-3 to the Mavericks in Mankato on Saturday night. Minnesota rallied twice on Friday night with goals from Travis Boyd and Nate Schmidt before Zach Budish recorded his first goal of the year with the eventual game winner -- all three Minnesota goals came on the power play. The Gophers couldn't replicate their rallying ways on Saturday as Erik Haula and Nick Bjugstad dug Minnesota out of a two-goal hole although the Mavericks would eventually earn the split. Nate Condon also scored for Minnesota. Adam Wilcox earned the starting nod for both games, picking up his fourth win on Friday before suffering his first collegiate loss on Saturday with a season-high 30-save performance.
Scouting the Seawolves
Alaska Anchorage (2-2-2 overall, 0-1-1 WCHA) opened conference play last weekend with a 1-4 loss and a 3-3 overtime tie at North Dakota after going 2-1-1 in nonconference action (the team's only nonconference loss was also against North Dakota in the Brice Alaska Gold Rush). Scott Allen (4-1--5), Alex Gellert (3-2--5) and Matt Bailey (1-4--5) lead the Seawolves offensively while Rob Gunderson (1-0-2, 2.86, .889) and Chris Kamal (1-2-0, 3.00, .896) have split the workload in net for Alaska Anchorage.
Gophers in the Polls
The Gophers remain in second in both major polls this week after last weekend's split with Minnesota State. Minnesota earned 896 points in this week's USCHO.com poll and 455 total votes in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Defending national champion Boston College retained its position in the top spot of both polls.
Boyd and the Power Play
After entering last weekend with just three power-play goals all season, the Gophers notched four goals while on the advantage during the Minnesota State series including all three goals in Friday's 3-2 win. Minnesota currently boasts the WCHA's second best power play at .226 (7-for-31). Denver leads the league at .280 (7-for-25). Sophomore Travis Boyd has tallied three of Minnesota's power-play goals this season and sits tied for second in the nation behind Boston College's Kevin Hayes with four.
Rise of Rau
Kyle Rau added a pair of assists in Friday's win over Minnesota State, pushing the sophomore to seven points this season (2goals, five assists). The Gophers are 13-2-0 in games where Rau records multiple points, and Minnesota is 5-0-0 this season when the forward notches a point.
The Importance of Being Early
The first period has been a great indication of how each game will go for the Gophers in 2012-13. The team is 4-0-0 when leading after the first period this season, but 0-2-0 when trailing after the game's opening stanza. Last Friday's win over the Mavericks marked the only time this season Minnesota was tied after the first period. Last Saturday, the Gophers rallied when trailing the Mavericks 2-1 after the first but could not overtake the home team. Minnesota also leads the WCHA in first period goals this season with 12.
Budish Breaks the Drought
Zach Budish's third period goal on Friday night not only proved to be the game winner -- it also the redshirt junior captain's first goal of the year and snapped an eight-game goal drought for the forward dating back to last year's NCAA West Regional win over North Dakota on March 16, 2012. In 95 career games at Minnesota, Budish has 63 total points (22g-41a).
Keeping it Clean
Despite 24 minutes of penalties last weekend (Minnesota entered the weekend with 30 total penalty minutes), the Gophers are still the least penalized team in the nation with an average of 7.7 penalty minutes against per game. Minnesota is 17-for-20 (.850) on the penalty kill this season.
Minnesota's 3-2 win over Michigan State on Oct. 20, 2012 gave Gophers head coach Don Lucia his 600th career victory. Lucia -- in his 26th year as a Division I head coach -- currently sits with a 602-330-83 career record and a 323-175-54 record with the Gophers. Lucia 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.