Weekend Preview: Michigan Tech
Last Time Out: Minnesota swept Minnesota State at home last weekend, winning 4-2 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday. Taylor Matson, Nick Larson, Erik Haula and Jake Hansen scored for the Gophers on Friday. The game was tied 2-2 entering the third period, but Minnesota scored twice in the final 20 minutes to secure the win. On Saturday, Matson, Seth Ambroz and Kyle Rau scored first-period goals to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead. The Gophers, who were whistled for 13 penalties, then withstood two power-play goals to win 3-2. Kent Patterson made 26 saves each night. The Gophers win on Friday was their first at Mariucci Arena against Minnesota State since a 5-3 win on Nov. 10, 2007.
Minnesota Vs. Michigan Tech: The Gophers will renew a rivalry that dates back to Feb. 13, 1922, and includes three NCAA Championship meetings when they host Michigan Tech this weekend. Minnesota has had the upper hand against the Huskies recently and historically, holding a 171-76-15 all-time record against Michigan Tech, which includes seven straight wins. In 2010-11, Minnesota completed two of its four sweeps on the year against Michigan Tech. Since coach Don Lucia began his tenure at Minnesota, the Gophers are 29-5-4 against the Huskies with a 15-4-1 record at home. Lucia is also 5-0-0 against the Huskies in December.
About The Huskies: After a four-win season in 2010-11, first-year head coach Mel Pearson and the Huskies have made a quick turnaround so far this year. With a 5-2-1 start, Michigan Tech climbed into the national rankings for the first time since Oct. 24, 2007. The Huskies, now 8-7-1 with a 5-6-1 record in the WCHA, dropped out of the rankings this week after a five-week stay following a sweep at the hands of new No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth last weekend. The Huskies are led offensively by senior forwards Brett Olson (5g-12a) and Jordan Baker (3g-10a). Due to injury, Baker was sidelined all of last year and Olson missed 20 games. Junior blueliner Steven Seigo is third on the team in points with 12 (2g-10a). Freshmen forwards David Johnstone (3g-8a), Blake Pietila (5g-5a), and Tanner Kero (6g-3a) have also been solid, as have returning leading scorers Ryan Furne (5g-5a) and Milos Gordic (7g-0a). Senior goaltender Josh Robinson has had his best season as a Husky between the pipes, going 7-5-1 with two shutouts, a 2.45 goals against average, and a .920 save percentage. His .915 save percentage in WCHA is the third-highest in the league behind Minnesota’s Kent Patterson (.931) and Minnesota-Duluth’s Kenny Reiter (.921).
In The Polls: The Gophers climbed to No. 2 in both major polls after sweeping Minnesota State last weekend. Minnesota was previously ranked No. 4 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and No. 5 in the UCSCHO.com poll. The Gophers have been in the top five in both polls for the last six weeks.
13 Wins: The Gophers are the only team in the nation with 13 wins. Ohio State has 12 wins and three other teams have 11 wins.
10 Straight: This weekend will be the tenth straight weekend that Minnesota will play two games. The Gophers have not had a bye week this year, but after this weekend they will not play again until the Dec. 30-31 Mariucci Classic.
Leading The WCHA: Minnesota is 10-2-0 in the WCHA and alone in first place with 20 points. Minnesota Duluth, who the Gophers swept on the road earlier this year, is second with a 9-2-1 record and 19 points. Nebraska Omaha is third with a 6-3-3 record and 15 points.
WCHA Points: The Gophers have 20 WCHA points after 12 games for the first time since the 2006-07 season. That year, Minnesota was 9-0-3 (21 points) in league play after 12 games. The last time that Minnesota won 10 of its first 12 WCHA games was the 1990-91 season. That year, the Gophers began WCHA play with a 10-0-2 record.
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 8-1-0 this year and have outscored their opponents 42-11.
Saturday Success: The Gophers are undefeated on Saturdays this year with a 7-0-1 record and are 4-0-0 at home on Saturdays. Minnesota has outscored its opponents 33-14 on Saturdays so far this season.
More Than Last Year: The Gophers recorded their fifth sweep of the season by defeating Minnesota State twice last weekend. Minnesota had only four sweeps all of last year. In WCHA play, the Gophers have now swept Minnesota Duluth, Alaska Anchorage, North Dakota and Minnesota State to go 8-0-0 against those teams so far. Last year, including the postseason, the Gophers were 3-7-2 against those four teams. Minnesota had three sweeps in the WCHA last year (at Colorado College, at Michigan Tech and at home against Michigan Tech).
Effective Offense: Minnesota, which has the second best offense in the nation by averaging 4.17 goals-per-game, has scored 75 goals in its first 18 games. Last year, the Gophers scored 59 goals in their first 18 games (3.27 goals-per-game). This year, Minnesota has scored three or more goals in 16 of its 18 games. Last year, the Gophers scored two or fewer goals in eight of its first 18 games.
Stingy Defense: The Gophers are tied for seventh in the nation allowing only 2.00 goals-per-game. Minnesota has allowed 29 or fewer shots in 14 of its 18 games this year and is 10-4-0 in those games (Gophers are 3-0-1 when allowing 30 or more shots). In 36 games last year the Gophers allowed 29 or fewer shots in 13 games. Minnesota held Vermont (17 shots on Oct. 21), North Dakota (19 shots on Nov. 5), Wisconsin (14 shots on Nov. 12) and St. Cloud State (18 shots on Nov. 18) to under 20 shots in games this year. The Gophers did not do that once last year.
Goals Against: Minnesota has outscored its opponents 75-36 this season. Of the 36 goals that Minnesota has given up, only 23 of them have come at even strength (20 at 5-on-5 and three at 4-on-4). Through 18 games, the Gophers are allowing 1.27 goals-per-game at even strength and only 1.11 goals-per-game during 5-on-5.
First And Third: Minnesota has dominated the first and third periods of play this year. The Gophers are outscoring their opponents 24-10 (15-7 in WCHA) in the first period and 29-8 (19-4 in WCHA) in the third period this year.
Getting To Three: Minnesota has scored three or more goals in 16 of its 18 games this season and are 12-3-1 in those games (Gophers are 9-1-1 when scoring four or more goals this year). Minnesota is 1-1-0 in scoring less than three goals this year (beat North Dakota 2-0 and lost 3-1 at Wisconsin).
Three-Goal Periods: The Gophers have scored three or more goals in seven periods this year, including the first period of a 3-2 win last Saturday against Minnesota State.
Scoring First: Minnesota has scored the first goal of the game 13 times in 18 games this season. The Gophers are 12-1-0 when they score first (lone loss was 5-4 against Vermont on Oct. 23) and 1-3-1 when their opponent scores first. The lone win came at Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 15 (Gophers erased a 2-0 first-period deficit).
Super Sophomores: Minnesota’s sophomore class has produced the bulk of the scoring for the Gophers this year. The Maroon and Gold has 196 points (75g-121a) this year and the sophomore class has recorded 113 of those points (41g-72a) points (57.6%). There are 11 sophomores on the team and all of them except Chris Student have played. Of the 10 who have played, only defenseman Jake Parenteau is scoreless. Nick Bjugstad leads the way with 26 points and is followed by Erik Haula with 22.
First In Line: Minnesota’s top line of freshman Kyle Rau, sophomore Nick Bjugstad and redshirt sophomore Zach Budish have played all 18 games together. They are the only line that coach Don Lucia has keep together all season and with good reason. The trio has combined for 63 points (3.50 points-per-game) this season. All three players are in the top five in scoring for the Gophers and all average at least one point per game. Bjugstad has 26 points (15g-11a), while Rau has 19 points (11g-8a) and Budish has 18 points (4g-14a).
One Streak Ends, One Still Going: Sophomore Nick Bjugstad failed to register a point on Saturday against Minnesota State, snapping his six-game point streak. He had 11 points (7g-4a) during the streak. Redshirt sophomore Zach Budish enters this weekend with a point in five straight games. He has seven points (1g-6a) during his streak.
Invited: Sophomore Nick Bjugstad and freshman Kyle Rau were named to the preliminary roster for the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team earlier this week. They are two of 29 players who will attend camp in Camrose, Alta., on Dec. 17. The camp will include three exhibition games and the final 22-player roster is expected to be named on Dec. 22. Bjugstad helped lead the U.S. to a bronze medal at last year's World Junior Championship. He had two goals and two assists in six game. Both of his goals were game-winners and his goal against Sweden secured the bronze medal for the Team USA.
More Bjugstad And Rau: Sophomore Nick Bjugstad is second in the nation in points (26) and goals (15) and has registered at least one point in 14 of Minnesota's 18 games this year. Freshman Kyle Rau, who leads all freshmen nationally in points (19) and goals (11), has points in 13 of 18 games this year. He is tied for first in the nation with five game-winning goals
Among The Best: Senior goaltender Kent Patterson leads the nation in wins (13) and shutouts (six). Last weekend, Patterson picked up two wins against Minnesota State. Prior to last weekend, Minnesota State was the only WCHA team that Patterson had played against and not beaten. Sophomore Nate Schmidt is second in the nation in scoring by a defenseman in points (18) and assists (17).
10-0-0: Eight players have recorded a point in 10 or more games. However, Nate Condon is the only one with a perfect record as Minnesota is 10-0-0 he scores.