Weekend Preview: Wisconsin
Last Time Out: The Gophers earned their fourth sweep of the season last weekend when they defeated rival North Dakota 2-0 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday. Nick Bjugstad and Tom Serratore scored for the Gophers on Friday and Kent Patterson made 24 saves to earn his fifth shutout of the season. On Saturday, Bjugstad put the Gophers up 1-0 in the first period, but Minnesota trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes of play. Nick Larson scored with just over six minutes remaining in the game and then Kyle Rau scored the game-winner with less than one minute left to complete the sweep. Patterson made 17 saves in the win.
Minnesota Vs. Wisconsin: For the second straight week, the Gophers will engage in a border battle when they travel to Madison, Wis. to take on the Badgers. In a rivalry where the two teams have faced each other at least four times a year in every season since 1969-70, neither team has earned three victories in one season since Minnesota won four of five contests in 2006-07. The teams went 1-1-2 against each other last year. In 257 all-time meetings since 1922, the Gophers are 153-84-20 against Wisconsin and hold a 60-51-13 edge in Madison. The Badgers will visit Mariucci Arena on March 2 and 3.
About Wisconsin: Last year, after a quick start and 13-2-1 run between Thanksgiving and the end of January, Wisconsin went 1-6-1 to end the regular season and bowed out in the first round of the WCHA playoffs in a three-game series against Colorado College. The Badgers lost six seniors, including both of their starting goaltenders, from their 2010-11 team and also saw top underclassmen Jake Gardiner, Craig Smith, and Jordy Murray leave in the offseason. This year, UW is 4-5-1 start and 3-4-1 in the WCHA, leaving the Badgers in a tie for fourth place with Minnesota Duluth. After splitting a non-conference series against Northern Michigan, Wisconsin started WCHA play by being swept at Michigan Tech. UW then swept North Dakota at home before splitting series against Nebraska Omaha and St. Cloud. The Badgers' top player is 2010-11 Hobey Baker Award finalist defenseman Justin Schultz. Schultz leads his team and all NCAA defensemen with 14 points (4g-10a). He is followed points-wise by sophomore forwards Mark Zengerle (4g-9a) and Tyler Barnes (5g-6a). Freshman netminders Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel have split 10 games. Peterson, who has played in the first game of each series, is 1-4-0 with a 3.90 goals-against average and an .875 save percentage. Rumpel, who has played the second game each weekend, is 3-1-1 with a 2.95 goals-against average and a.913 save percentage.
In The Polls: The 9-1-0 Gophers are the new No. 1 team in the nation in both major polls. Minnesota was ranked No. 5 in both the USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls last week but climbed to No. 1 after sweeping rival North Dakota at home. The Gophers began the year at No. 19 in the USCHO poll and were unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
First Time Since 2008: On Friday the Gophers will play their first game as the No. 1 team in the nation since Nov. 29, 2008 (4-4 tie against Michigan State at home).
Good Start To The Year: Minnesota is 9-1-0 on the year, which is its best start since beginning the 2001-02 season 11-0-1. The Gophers are also 6-0-0 in the WCHA for the first time since the 1994-95 season. The Gophers, who are 2-0-0 in November, 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.
Road Tough: Minnesota is 4-0-0 on the road this year and is 11-4-3 in its last 18 road games dating back to the start of last season. The Gophers play five of their next six games on the road.
One More For 300: Coach Don Lucia has a 299-160-53 record at Minnesota, which means his next win will be his 300th as bench boss of the Gophers. He will become the second Minnesota coach to reach 300 wins (Doug Woog is the other). Lucia's first win at Minnesota was a 6-5 overtime triumph against Boston College on Oct. 29, 1999. It came in his fifth game at Minnesota.
Four Sweeps: The Gophers earned their fourth sweep of the season last weekend when they defeated rival North Dakota 2-0 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday. The Gophers now have four sweeps this year (Sacred Heart, at Minnesota Duluth, at Alaska Anchorage and North Dakota). Minnesota had four sweeps all of last year (Massachusetts, at Colorado College, at Michigan Tech and against Michigan Tech).
Sweeping North Dakota: Win a 3-2 win last Saturday, the Gophers swept North Dakota for the first time at home in the regular season under head coach Don Lucia. Minnesota last swept North Dakota at Mariucci Arena on March 8-9, 2002 in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and last did it in the regular season on Nov. 8-9, 1996. Minnesota's last sweep overall against its rival came on Dec. 9-10, 2006 in Grand Forks.
Blanking North Dakota: Minnesota's 2-0 win against North Dakota on Friday was the first time that the Maroon and Gold blanked its rival since Oct. 23, 2004 (Kellen Briggs in a 6-0 win at North Dakota) and was the first for the Gophers against North Dakota at home since Dec. 12, 1993 (Jeff Moen in a 3-0 win).
Five Shutouts For Patterson: Goaltender Kent Patterson picked up his fifth shutout of the season last Friday making 24 saves in a 2-0 win against North Dakota. Patterson is now tied with Robb Stauber with five shutouts in a season, which is the most in program history. Stauber posted five shutouts during the 1987-88 season. On the year, Patterson is 9-1-0 and has a 1.60 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. Patterson was named national player of the month for October.
Call It A Comeback: Last Saturday, the Gophers won while trailing after two periods. It was only the second time this year that the Gophers trailed after two periods (lost to Vermont on Oct. 23). Minnesota scored twice in the third period to beat North Dakota and it was the first time that the Gophers won after trailing after two periods since they rallied to beat Bemidji State 3-2 in overtime on the road on March 5, 2011 (trailed 2-1).
Scoring Goals, Not Allowing Goals: The Gophers have outscored their opponents 48-16 this season. The Gophers have the top-ranked offense in the nation as they are averaging 4.80 goals-per-game (Cornell second at 4.67) and their defense is the third-best in the country allowing only 1.60 goals-per-game (Merrimack first at 1.25 and Union second at 1.56). Minnesota has allowed 16 goals (six on the power play) in 10 games this year.
Scoring First: Minnesota has scored the first goal of the game nine times in 10 games this season. The Gophers are 8-1-0 when they score first (lone loss was 5-4 against Vermont on Oct. 23) and 1-0 when their opponent scores first (5-4 win at Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 15).
Scoring Last: The Gophers have scored a goal in the final minute of regulation in five of 10 games this year and only one of those goals was an empty-net goal (Rau at Alaska Anchorage on Oct. 29).
Once Every 20 Minutes: The Gophers have played 31 periods of hockey this year (counting the overtime at Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 15) and have scored in 28 of them. The only periods that Minnesota did not score in was the third period of a 6-0 win against Vermont (Oct. 21), the first period of a 2-0 win against North Dakota (No. 4) and the second period of a 3-2 win against North Dakota (Nov. 5). The Gophers have scored at least one goal in all 13 periods (including the overtime at Minnesota Duluth) it has played on the road this year. Minnesota has scored 14 goals in the first period, 18 in the second period, 15 in the third period and one in overtime this year.
Super Sophomores: Both Minnesota's and Wisconsin have been paced by their sophomore classes. In ten games, Minnesota's sophomores have combined for 75 points (28g-47a). Five of the Gophers' top seven scorers are sophomores (including redshirt sophomore Zach Budish) and Erik Haula leads the team with 17 points (7g-10a). On a team with only six upperclassmen, the Badgers' second-year players have stepped up as well. UW's sophomores have combined for almost half (16-of-33) of the team's goals and have recorded 42 points (16g-26a). Three of the team's top four scorers are sophomores.
Team Defense: Minnesota has allowed 29 or fewer shots in eight of its 10 games this year and is 7-1-0 in those games. In 36 games last year the Gophers allowed 29 or fewer shots in 13 games. Minnesota held Vermont (17 shots on Oct. 21) and North Dakota (19 shots on Nov. 5) to under 20 shots in games this year. The Gophers did not do that once last year.
O From The D: Minnesota has registered 127 points in 10 games this year and 28 of those points have come from the blueline. Nate Schmidt (second in the nation in scoring among defensemen and tied for third among all players in assists) leads with 12 points (1g-11a). He is followed by Justin Holl (2g-3a), Mark Alt (1g-4a), Ben Marshall (1g-1a), Seth Helgeson (2a) and Blake Thompson (2a). Jake Parenteau is the only defenseman who has played and is without a point.
Haula Still Leads: Erik Haula does not have a point in his last three games, but still leads the nation with 17 points. Haula recorded seven goals and 10 assists in his first seven games of the year. Matt White of Nebraska Omaha is second with 16 points (5g-11a). Haula and White played together for Omaha in the USHL in 2009-10. White led the team with 82 points, while Haula was second with 72. Haula became the first Gopher to notch 17 points in one month since Thomas Vanek did it in nine games in November 2002. Vanek had 10 points in two games that month.
Minnesota Rau-Ser: Kyle Rau scored the game-winning goal for last Saturday with 45 seconds left against North Dakota. The goal was his eighth of the season (leads all freshmen and tied for fifth among all players in the nation) and was his fourth game-winner (first in the nation). Rau leads all freshmen and is tied for third nationally among all players with 15 points. The true freshman has points in nine of 10 games this year, including points in his last eight. Rau was the national rookie of the month for October.