Minnesota went 0-1-1 at Michigan State last weekend. The Gophers dropped a 4-3 decision against the Spartans on Friday despite outshooting Michigan State 43-23. Nick Bjugstad scored twice and Seth Helgeson tallied his second goal of the season in defeat. On Saturday, the Gophers trailed 3-1 in the second period, but then scored three straight goals to take a 4-3 third-period lead. However, Michigan State scored the final goal of the game and the teams tied 4-4. Ben Marshall, Erik Haula, Zach Budish and Kyle Rau lit the lamp for the Gophers, who picked up their first tie of the season.
On Tap This Weekend:
Minnesota State (3-10-1 overall; 2-7-1 in the WCHA) has been bitten by injuries this season, losing a player in each of their first eight games. The Mavericks are led in scoring by freshmen Jean-Paul Lafontaine (7g, 3a) and Matt Leitner (4g, 6a), who each have 10 points. Jean-Paul is the nephew of Pat Lafontaine who had a great Olympic and professional career. Eriah Hayes (6-3, 215 pounds) leads Minnesota State, the fifth-most penalized team in the country, with 44 penalty minutes, but is also third on the team with nine points (4g-5a) including eight in the last six games. Redshirt senior netminder Austin Lee is 3-7-0 with a 3.33 goals against average and a .907 save percentage in goal for the Mavericks. Junior Phil Cook, who saved 79 of 82 shots in two wins against the Gophers last year and freshman Evan Karambelas have also seen time between the pipes. Last weekend against Anchorage the Mavericks came back from a four-goal deficit to earn a tie.
MSU alum David Backes is having a great professional career and is the captain of the St. Louis Blues. Backes is one of only a few former college players who are captains of their NHL teams.
Minnesota is first in the WCHA but has UMD on their heels, only one point behind them in the standings. These are four important points for the Gophers as they will need to sweep at home and split on the road to stay on top of the league. While the Gophers have the advantage in several areas this weekend including goaltending, defense, offense and special teams, the Mavericks have had their number of late, including a sweep last season. In fact, the Gophers’ current senior class is only 2-5-1 against the Mavericks with an 0-2-1 record at home.
Offensive highlights include sophomore center Nick Bjugstad who is tied for first in the nation in points (25) and goals (15). Bjugstad had 13 points (9g, 4a) in eight November games and has 15 goals in 16 games this year. He is the first Gopher to score 15 goals since Ryan Stoa tallied 24 goals in 36 games in the 2008-09 season. Minnesota’s top line of freshman Kyle Rau, sophomore Nick Bjugstad and redshirt sophomore Zach Budish have played all 16 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 58 points (3.625 points per game) this season. All three players are in the top six in scoring for the Gophers including Bjugstad, Rau has 18 points (10g, 8a) and Budish has 15 points (4g, 11a). Freshman Kyle Rau scored last Saturday at Michigan State and now has 10 goals on the year. He is the first Minnesota freshman to score 10 goals since Jordan Schroeder had 13 goals in 35 games in the 2008-09 season.
THE CALL: Minnesota sweep
UMD at Michigan Tech
UMD seems to be hitting their stride. They have more firepower than Tech and are a deeper team.
THE CALL: UMD Sweep
North Dakota at Alaska Anchorage
It’s cold in Grand Forks right now with winter on the way, but if the North Dakota don’t come home with four points this weekend it’s going to be very cold.
THE CALL: UND sweep
Bemidji State at St. Cloud State
The Beavers are not as deep as the Huskies who overall have a little better team than Bemidji.
THE CALL: Three points for St. Cloud
Denver at Colorado College
These two teams clash for a single game this weekend and it could come down to goaltending. If that is the case, the public address announcer might be pleased to see Adam Murray (5-2-1, 3.40 GAA, .902 save percentage) in nets for the Pioneers rather than Juho Olkinuora (1-2-2, 1.91 GAA, .933 save percentage), who has one of the more unique names in college hockey.
THE CALL: Denver win