Happy Holidays to all the hockey fans out there, even the Sioux fans! Well, on second thought, not all Sioux fans, but certainly to all Gopher Hockey fans!
The 14-5-1 Minnesota Golden Gophers just finished a stretch where they played 20 games in 10 straight weeks, but they are now off until they host Niagara, Northeastern and Princeton in the Mariucci Classic on Dec. 30-31. Two of Minnesota’s leading scorers could miss the Mariucci Classic; sophomore Nick Bjugstad (leads the team with 27 points) and freshman Kyle Rau (third with 22 points) have both been named to the preliminary roster for the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team.
Currently ranked No. 2 in the nation behind UMD, the Gophers are off to a 14-5-1 start with an 11-3-0 conference record. Minnesota is 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
The Gophers next WCHA series takes them to North Dakota in mid-January.
Not many people would have put Minnesota in first place at the start of the season but here they are, atop the WCHA and ranked #2 in the nation.
The keys to the good first half starts with the leadership of the players and the coaches. Taylor Matson is an ideal captain for this team and has been a good leader on and off of the ice.
This year the guys who were expected to step up have, and guys have really improved.
Offensive MVP so far this season: Nick Bjugstad
Best two way player: Taylor Matson
Impact personality: Mike Guentzel has changed the attitude and demanded good attacks and forecheck.
Most physically consistent: Tom Serratore
Most improved offensive defenseman: Nate Schmidt
Most improved defenseman: Mark Alt
Most improved sophomore forward: Erik Haula
Most consistently physical defenseman: Seth Helgeson
Holiday Hockey Action
The South St. Paul Classic sponsored by Old Orchard Juices is a good girls tourney with some of the top teams in the state including South St. Paul, Hill Murray, Minnetonka, Jefferson, Roseville, Hibbing, Warroad and Blake.
These games are not televised. Look for Northeastern in the finals against Minnesota. Niagara and Princeton are the other two teams in town for the holiday games.
World Junior Championships
Some of the best hockey of the season takes place in this tournament that is followed extensively all over the world, but not as much in the mainstream U.S. media. Log on to www.usahockey.com to follow all of the action, including the play of Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau!
|1. UMD||Deep, strong & on a run|
|2. GOPHERS||Will contend to the end|
|3. DU||Good top end players|
|4. CC||Need consistency|
|5. UNO||Also need consistency|
|6. UND||Will they come on in second half|
|7. SCSU||Talented, but not enough|
|8. BEMIDJI||Good skill, not enought depth|
|9. WISCONSIN||Not the Badgers of past|
|10. TECH||Good start, can they finish?|
|11. MANKATO||Some talent for future|
|12. ANCHORAGE||Decent start but fading|
|GOALS||POINTS||1st Half Grade|