LIVE BLOG: Minnesota at Michigan State
Last Time Out: Minnesota split last weekend in a home-and-home series with rival St. Cloud State, as each team won its home game. The Gophers outshot the Huskies 43-18 on Friday, but fell 4-3. Scoring for Minnesota was Nick Bjugstad, Tom Serratore and Kyle Rau. On Saturday, Minnesota bounced back in a big way with a dominating 5-0 win. Kent Patterson made 30 saves to set a school record with six shutouts in a season and Bjugstad recorded his first career hat trick. Jake Hansen and Mark Alt also added goals for Minnesota as the Gophers improved to 6-1-0 at home.
Minnesota Vs. Michigan State: This weekend, Minnesota will look to take back the Mariucci-Bessone Trophy against Michigan State after the Spartans reclaimed it for the first time since 2000 with a 5-2 win last year in Minneapolis. The teams will play in a weekend series in East Lansing, Mich. for the first time since Feb 1 and 2, 1980. The Gophers and Spartans have met at least once a season since 1993-94 thanks the now-defunct College Hockey Showcase, but only played each other twice in the same year one time (1996-97) in that span. This weekend will mark the 33rd two-game series between Minnesota and MSU in East Lansing Mich. The Gophers are 39-23-2 in those games and have a total record of 42-25-5 on the road against the Spartans. UM also holds the advantage overall in the all-time series against Michigan State with 101-42-11 ledger.
About The Spartans: Just like the Minnesota, 20th-ranked Michigan State is looking to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years. Under first-year head coach Tom Anastos, the Spartans are off to a 7-5-0 start with a 4-4-0 CCHA record. After going 1-3 in its first four games, MSU began to heat up in mid-October and has now won five of its last six games. The Spartans' recent surge, which includes a road sweep over then-No. 5 Western Michigan, has helped the team climb back into the USCHO.com national rankings for the first time since Nov. 15, 2010. Sophomores Lee Reimer (6g-11a) and Greg Wolfe (4g-8a) lead the team offensively, but senior Mike Merrifield leads the team in goals with seven, despite having played only eight games. The Spartans, who have allowed two goals in each of their last six games, are led on the back end by junior Torey Krug (4g-5a) and senior Brock Shelgren (1g-6a). Second-year goaltender Will Yanakeff is 5-2-0 in seven games between the pipes with a 2.44 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. Senior Drew Palmisano is 2-3-0 in five starts.
In The Polls: After a weekend split against St. Cloud State, the Gophers slipped from No. 1 in both major polls. Minnesota is now ranked No. 3 in the USCHO poll and No. 2 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. The Gophers were ranked No. 1 for two weeks and were 2-2-0 as the top-ranked team in the nation.
See You Soon: This weekend will offer a glimpse into the future, as Minnesota and Michigan State will both begin competing in the new Big Ten conference during the 2013-14 season. In addition to Minnesota and Michigan State, the Big Ten conference will feature Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. The Gophers are 1-1-0 this year against teams who compete in the Big Ten conference, as they split a series at Wisconsin two weeks ago. Minnesota does not play Michigan or Ohio State this year and Penn State does not yet have a varsity team.
Let's Play Two: The Gophers and Spartans are playing two games this weekend. It will be the first time since the 1996-97 season that the two schools will play two times during the season. That year, Minnesota beat Michigan State 5-3 in the regular season and 6-3 in the first round of the NCAA West Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich. The teams have traditionally played only once a year in the now-defunct College Hockey Showcase. In the Showcase, which ended last season, the Gophers would play the Spartans and Michigan Wolverines, while the two Michigan schools would play Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Ranked Opponent: Michigan State is ranked No. 20 according to USCHO.com. The Spartans will be the third ranked opponent that Minnesota will face this year. The Gophers are 4-0-0 against teams ranked in the USCHO poll this year as they swept then-No. 9 Minnesota Duluth and then No. 15 North Dakota.
Patterson Sets Record: With a 30-save shutout against St. Cloud State on Saturday, Kent Patterson became Minnesota's all-time single-season record holder in shutouts with six. Patterson pulled ahead of Robb Stauber, who had five in the 1987-88 season and became the first goaltender to ever win the Hobey Baker Award. Saturday's blanking of the Huskies was Patterson's first in which he faced more than 24 shots. The senior netminder had not had a shutout in his career prior to this season. No goaltender in NCAA Division I hockey had more than six shutouts last season.
No Goals For You: Kent Patterson has played 14 games against seven opponents this season and has posted a shutout against five of them. Patterson has blanked Sacred Heart (twice), Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska Anchorage and St. Cloud State. The only teams that Patterson has not shutout this year are Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin.
A First For Bjugstad: Nick Bjugstad notched the first hat trick of his career last Saturday in Minnesota's 5-0 win against St. Cloud State. Bjugstad had two-power play goals and one even-strength tally. He is the first Gopher to record a hat trick since Jay Barriball did so against Massachusetts in a 5-4 home win on Oct. 9, 2010.
Leading The Way: Nick Bjugstad had five points (4g-1a) against St. Cloud State last weekend. He is now tied for first in the nation with Jack Connolly of Minnesota Duluth and T.J. Tynan of Notre Dame with 21 points. Bjugstad has 13 goals, which is second in the nation behind Austin Smith of Colgate who has 15. Bjugstad already has as goals this season as Mike Hoeffel did last year when he led the team in goals.
Shutout And A Hat Trick: Kent Patterson had a shutout and Nick Bjugstad had a hat trick against St. Cloud State last Saturday. It was the first time that Minnesota recorded a shutout and a hat trick in the same game since Feb. 25, 2006. On that day, Ryan Potulny scored three times and Jeff Frazee made 10 saves as the Gophers won 4-0 at Alaska Anchorage.
All's Right On Saturday Night: Minnesota defeated St. Cloud State 5-0 at home last Saturday. The Gophers are now 6-0-0 on Saturdays this year and have outscored their opposition 26-8. Four of those eight goals against came in a 5-4 overtime win at Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 14.
First And Third: Minnesota has dominated the first and third periods of play this year. The Gophers are outscoring their opponents 18-6 in the first period and 24-4 in the third period this year. Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State scored two first-period goals against the Gophers this year, while North Dakota and Wisconsin each scored one. Minnesota Duluth scored three third-period goals against Minnesota, while Vermont scored one.
Tough Road: The Gophers are in the midst of a tough stretch of their schedule where they are playing seven of 10 games away from Mariucci Arena. Minnesota has already played two games in Anchorage, Alaska and Madison, Wisconsin during the stretch and now heads to East Lansing, Michigan for a pair of games. The other road game was last Friday at St. Cloud State. Minnesota is 6-2-0 (3-2-0 on the road) in the first eight games of the current 10-game stretch. The Gophers have won all three home games during the stretch, as they swept North Dakota and beat St. Cloud State last Saturday. After this weekend, Minnesota will not play a road game until Jan. 13-14, 2012, when it travels to North Dakota.
WCHA Points: Minnesota is 8-2-0 in the WCHA. The Gophers have played seven of their 10 league games on the road and are 5-2-0 in those games (two wins at Minnesota Duluth and Alaska Anchorage and a win at Wisconsin). Minnesota has two home wins against North Dakota and one against St. Cloud State. The Gophers have are in first place in the WCHA with 16 points. They recorded their 16th WCHA point last season on Jan. 14, 2011, with a 3-2 win at North Dakota (15th WCHA game of the season).
Scoring Goals, Not Allowing Goals: After scoring eight combined goals last the weekend against St. Cloud State the Gophers once again have the nation's most potent offense. Minnesota leapfrogged Colorado College and leads the nation by averaging 4.36 goals-per-game (Colorado College average 4.33). In addition, Minnesota is tied with Yale for the third-best defense in the nation allowing only 1.71 goals-per-game (Merrimack leads at 1.33 and is followed by Ferris State at 1.64).
11 Wins: The Gophers are the only team in the nation with 11 wins. Ohio State and Ferris State have 10 wins. No other team in the nation has double-digit wins.
Minnesota Rau-ser: Kyle Rau, who scored at St. Cloud State last Friday, now has nine goals this year. His next goal will be his tenth of the season. The last Gopher freshman to score 10 goals in a year was Jordan Schroeder who registered 13 goals in 2008-09. Prior to Schroeder, Jay Barriball had 20 goals as a freshman in 2006-07.
Schmidt Putting Up Points: Sophomore Nate Schmidt had three assists last weekend against his hometown school St. Cloud State. Schmidt leads the team and ranks second nationally with 15 assists (T.J. Tynan of Notre Dame has 17). He also ranks second nationally in scoring by defensemen with 16 points (Justin Schultz of Wisconsin has 18 points). Schmidt has 13 power-play points (1g-12a) this year.
No Brooms Needed: For the second straight week, an opponent had an opportunity to sweep Minnesota and for the second straight week the Gophers bounced back from a Friday night loss with a convincing Saturday win. Two weeks ago, Wisconsin won on Friday, but the Gophers prevailed 4-1 on Saturday. Last Friday, St. Cloud State held on for a 4-3 win against Minnesota, but the Maroon and Gold won 5-0 on Saturday night. Minnesota has not been swept in the regular season since Dec. 3 and 4, 2010 when Minnesota State took four of four points from the Gophers in Mankato.
Home Improvement: Minnesota finished last year with a 9-10-3 record at Mariucci Arena (first season under .500 at the new Mariucci). The Gophers are 6-1-0 this year and have outscored their opponents 35-7.
Scoring First: Minnesota has scored the first goal of the game 11 times in 14 games this season. The Gophers are 10-1-0 when they score first (lone loss was 5-4 against Vermont on Oct. 23) and 1-2 when their opponent scores first (5-4 win at Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 15; 3-1 loss at Wisconsin on Nov. 11 and 4-3 loss at St. Cloud State on Nov. 18).
Around the Dasher: A.J. Michaelson
A native of Apple Valley, Minn., Michaelson has appeared in 83 games for the Maroon & Gold with 12 points (five goals, seven assists).
Okposo, Boyd Net Pro Hat Tricks
Kyle Okposo and Nick Leddy combined for seven points including Okposo's second career hat trick on Sunday.
`U' Falls in Series Finale
Minnesota (14-13-0 overall, 9-3-0-0 Big Ten) hits the road next weekend with a two-game series at Michigan State.