No. 4 Minnesota Returns to Action with the Mariucci Classic
Dec. 27, 2012
The No. 4 Minnesota men’s hockey team returns to action this weekend, kicking off the second half of the season with the Mariucci Classic. The Gophers (11-3-3 overall, 6-3-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) open the weekend against Air Force (5-7-3, 4-4-2 AHA) on Saturday night before taking on No. 1 Boston College (11-2-1, 9-2-1 Hockey East) on Sunday evening in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Frozen Four semifinal. Both Gopher games are set for 7 p.m. starts. Additionally, the top-ranked Eagles will open the weekend at 4 p.m. on Saturday against Alabama in Huntsville. The Chargers (3-14-1) will then meet Air Force on Sunday afternoon (also a 4 p.m. game).
The Mariucci Classic
Now in its 22nd year of existence, the Mariucci Classic has served as the University of Minnesota and Mariucci Arena’s annual holiday tournament since the 1991-92 season. Both Minnesota and Boston College appeared in the inaugural four-team event (along with Bowling Green and Providence). The Gophers, who have 12 Mariucci Classic titles in 21 events including nine straight from 1999-2006, are looking for their first Mariucci Classic title since 2008-09.
Last Time Out
Minnesota closed out the first half with a three-point weekend at Colorado College on Dec. 7-8. The Gophers kicked off the series with a 4-2 win on Friday night before surrendering a three-goal lead on Saturday to tie 4-4 in overtime. Erik Haula and Nate Schmidt paced Minnesota with three points each over the weekend while Colorado Springs native Tom Serratore notched a pair of goals and Sam Warning continued his offense production since returning from injury with a pair of goals himself.
Among the Nation’s Best
Minnesota boasts both a top-ten nationally ranked offense and defense this season. The Gophers are ranked 10th in the NCAA this year offensively with 3.35 goals per game. On the other end of the ice, Minnesota ranks even higher -- tied for seventh -- after allowing a WCHA low 2.00 goals against per game. The Gophers also rank third in the nation and first in the WCHA in scoring margin at 1.35.
Special Teams Success
In addition, both special teams units for the Gophers are ranked in the top ten nationally. Minnesota’s penlaty killing lines rank first in the WCHA and eighth in the nation with a .895 success rate (51-for-57). The team has had similar luck when on the advantage. The Gophers are tied for 10th in the NCAA and second in the WCHA this season on the power play at .212 (17-for-80).
Haula Stays Hot
Erik Haula’s three-point weekend pushed the junior’s point streak to 12-consecutive games with a tally. The last time the forward failed to notch a point was Minnesota’s 1-0 nonconference win over Canisius on Oct. 28. Haula has actually tallied in 15 of Minnesota’s 17 games this season with the only other exception coming in the team’s 3-5 loss to Michigan Tech on Oct. 19. Haula currently ranks 13th in the nation with 1.29 points per game (seventh in the WCHA) while he’s tied for seventh in the NCAA this year with 14 assists.
Air Force Connections
Junior forward Tom Serratore will have the surreal experience on Saturday of playing against his father -- Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. A native of Coleraine, Minn., Frank Serratore boasts a squad that features 11 Minnesotans as well as assistant coach Andy Berg -- himself a Stillwater native.
Assists Add Up for Schmidt
Junior defenseman Nate Schmidt has quietly found his way onto the score sheet with an assist in each of the last six games. Minnesota is 4-1-1 during that span. Schmidt leads all Gophers defensemen this season and ranks third overall on the team with 15 points (two goals, 13 assists). His 0.88 points per game rank fourth nationally among Division I defensemen (second in the WCHA) while his 13 assists are tied for first in the NCAA by a defenseman.
Durability in the Lineup
Minnesota has 13 skaters play in all 17 games through the first half including the team’s top 12 scorers. Additionally, the team’s lone senior -- defenseman Seth Helgeson -- has also appeared in all 17 games so far this year. Helgeson has made a team-high 127 career appearances entering the weekend.
Roll with Rau
A point from Kyle Rau is a good omen for the Gophers this season. The team is 10-0-1 when the sophomore forward tallies a point this season. Friday’s game at Colorado College marked the first time this season that Minnesota picked up win without the sophomore scoring while Saturday marked the first and only time this season that Rau has tallied a point in a game Minnesota didn’t win. Rau ranks second on the team in points this season with 15 (six goals, nine assists).
Mike Reilly Named to U.S. WJC Roster
Gopher freshman Mike Reilly will miss this year’s Mariucci Classic in order to compete in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia. Reilly, skating for the U.S. squad, gives Minneosta a representative at every World Junior Championship since 1992 (the only year since the event began in 1977 that Minnesota did not have a player or staff member at the tournament). Gophers assistant coach Grant Potulny will serve in the same capacity for the U.S. team under Phil Housley.
The Wilcox File
The statistics are starting to add up for rookie netminder Adam Wilcox. The South St. Paul native leads the WCHA and ranks seventh in the nation this season with a 1.78 GAA. Wilcox (10-2-3) is sixth in the nation this year with a .767 winning percentage and only Parker Milner of Boston College and Eric Hartzell of Quinnipiac have more wins (11 and 12, respectively) than Wilcox’s 10 (the rookie is tied with Ryan Faragher of SCSU for the WCHA wins lead so far this season).