Minnesota kicked off its final season in the WCHA with a 7-0 exhibition win over Lethbridge last Saturday night. Christian Isackson led the way for Minnesota -- starting the game off with a natural hat trick -- while 12 Gophers tallied points in the win. The Gophers outshot the Pronghorns 65-16 in the contest while Minnesota went 3-for-8 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
With six of the team’s top seven scorers from a year ago returning to the Gophers roster, Minnesota brings back 83 percent of its offensive fire power from last year’s Frozen Four squad. Among the top returners is junior Erik Haula, who led the Gophers with 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) in 43 games last year. Other returners of note include sophomore Kyle Rau (18-25--43), junior Nate Schmidt (3-38--41), redshirt junior Zach Budish (12-23--35) and junior Nate Condon (11-19--30).
Minnesota and Michigan State have a long and storied history with both programs having been members of the WCHA and now both moving to the Big Ten Conference in 2013-14.
The Gophers own a 101-43-12 overall record against the Spartans although recent history has been favorable to both teams (Minnesota is 4-4-5 against the Spartans since 2000-01). The two teams played a pair of games in East Lansing last season with Michigan State picking up a 4-3 win on Friday before the two teams tied 4-4 in overtime the next night. Both teams reached the NCAA tournament last season.
Michigan State was selected seventh in the pre-season poll of CCHA head coaches, and sixth in a survey of the conference’s media. Michigan State sits at No. 16 in the USCHO.com poll. MSU is young, and has 12 new faces on their roster this season: five forwards, six defensemen, and one goaltender. In addition, redshirt freshman Justin Hoomaian returns to the roster healthy after missing all but five games last season with injury.