Minnesota welcomes Niagara, Northeastern and Princeton for the 21st annual Mariucci Classic. The Gophers have won 12 titles, but the last came in 2008.
Northeastern and Princeton play the early game on Friday, before Minnesota and Niagara face off. Friday’s winners will play Saturday for the tournament title.
Minnesota vs. Niagara
Minnesota and Niagara have played twice, a two-game series in 2006 in which the Gophers won 5-2 and 7-1. Niagara is a young team, with just one senior forward and one senior defenseman. They entered the winter break with a record of 5-5-6, including a 4-2-5 mark in Atlantic Hockey. The Purple Eagles have lost only two games since Halloween after winning only one game in October and head into the Mariucci Classic on a six-game unbeaten streak. Sophomore forward Scott Arnold leads the team with 12 points (7g-5a) and 24 penalty minutes, while fellow second-year forward Patrick Divjak leads with seven assists. Cody Campbell, Chris Noonan, Colby Drost, and Carsen Chubak have each made appearances in goal for Niagara. Campbell (2-1-3; 2.54 GAA; .918 save percentage) has logged the most minutes, but Noonan (2-1-2; 2.32 GAA; .928 save percentage) has started each of the Purple Eagles’ last three contests.
The Gophers are No. 2 in both major polls after going 14-5-1 in their first 20 games of the season and they are the only team in the nation with 14 wins. Minnesota will be without sophomore Nick Bjugstad and freshman Kyle Rau for the Mariucci Classic, as both players are competing for the United States at the World Junior Championship in Canada. Bjugstad (16g-11a--27p) and Rau (12g-10a--22a) account for 28 of Minnesota’s 83 goals (33.7%). They also
account for 21 of the team’s 136 assists (15.4%) and 49 of the team’s 219 points (22.3%). These team totals put Minnesota #2 in the nation in offense. Bjugstad played for Team USA last year, while Rau is playing in the World Junior Championship for the first time.
Look for Minnesota to face Northeastern in the final, with Minnesota capturing their first Classic title since 2008.
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