The Gophers enter the weekend series against Wisconsin on a four game winning streak, after sweeping Bemidji two weeks ago and UNO last weekend. By winning both games in Omaha, the Gophers clinched a top-two spot for the first round of the WCHA playoffs. With two points against Wisconsin this weekend or a Minnesota Duluth loss, Minnesota will capture its first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07.
Minnesota came out fast and quick last weekend, much like they did against Bemidji. Saturday they came out hard again and got the second win. Nick Bjugstad was banged up a bit last Saturday and while he has been practicing this week, he is questionable whether or not he will be in the lineup this weekend against Wisconsin. The celebration after the game last week showed that this team has really bonded and that there is great chemistry.
With two goals last Saturday and an assist last Friday, Kyle Rau is now on a seven-game point streak. In his last seven contests, Rau has three goals and six assists. Nate Schmidt and Jake Hansen became the fourth and fifth Gophers to hit the 30-point mark this season. They join Nick Bjugstad, Erik Haula and Rau in the 30-point club. Just shy of the 30-point mark are Zach Budish (28) and Nate Condon (26).
Minnesota has scored three or more goals in its last seven games and is 5-2-0 in those games. The Gophers, who are second in the nation with a 3.63 goals-per game average, are 20-6-1 when scoring three or more goals this year.
On defense the Gophers have slowly improved, and especially over the last 20 games. Seth Helgeson has been playing great, as has Jake Parenteau, who played only a handful of games last year, but has really stepped up this season.
Wisconsin is looking to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time under current head coach Mike Eaves, Wisconsin is heating up at the right time. After losing five straight games from Jan. 27 to Feb. 17, the Badgers have won three in a row, including a win over then-No. 10 Denver, to climb back into the top 25 of the PairWise Rankings. Wisconsin entered last weekend with just one win away from home on the season, but swept Bemidji State on the road with a pair of 4-2 victories. The Badgers are a young team that has only two seniors on the roster. They are led in scoring by sophomore forward Mark Zengerle (11g-33a) and junior defenseman Justin Schultz (15g-27a). Sophomores Michael Mersch (13g-15a) and Tyler Barnes (8g-15a) and freshman Joseph LaBate (5g-15a) each have 20 points or more. Aside from Schultz, Wisconsin is led defensively by second-year skater Frankie Simonelli
(5g-13a), rookie Jake McCabe (3g-6a), and junior captain John Ramage (3g-6a). Freshmen Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson have played a majority of the time between the pipes. Rumpel has played more minutes, posting a 10-9-2 record with a 2.70 goals against average and a .910 save percentage, but Peterson has started two of the team’s last three games. Peterson is 5-6-0 with a 3.02 goals against average and an .896 save percentage on the year.
The Gophers have the advantage over the Badgers in virtually every category including goaltending, defense, offense and special teams. Wisconsin getting swept could put the Badgers into the 10th spot, and their worst finish in a long time.
The Call: Minnesota sweep
On tap this week in the WCHA:
Denver at Nebraska Omaha
Third place Denver could lock themselves into that spot with a point this weekend. UNO sits in 6th place and is fighting to keep the home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
The Call: Split
Minnesota Duluth at St. Cloud State
UMD’s motivation is to sweep and give themselves a chance at the WCHA title.
The Call: Split
Minnesota State at North Dakota
Not a lot of movement in the standings can result from this series.
The Call: UND Sweep
Michigan Tech at Colorado College
If Tech can pick up a point or two they stand a chance of hosting a first round playoff game.
The Call: 3 points for CC
Bemidji State at Alaska Anchorage
The Call: 3 points for Bemidji
In 1913, MacNaughton purchased a cup trophy for US$2,000 and donated it to the President of the American Hockey Association, which was to be awarded to the league's champion at the end of the season. The MacNaughton Cup remained with the American Hockey Association until 1932. From 1933 to 1950, the Cup was given to semi-pro and intermediate hockey teams in Michigan's Copper Country.
In 1951, the MacNaughton family arranged to have the Cup awarded to the newly-founded Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (MCHL), a precursor to the WCHA.
The MCHL was composed of Michigan Tech, Colorado College, University of Denver, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, and University of North Dakota. Michigan Tech became the trustee for the MacNaughton Cup. In the original spirit of the trophy, the league decided to award the trophy to its regular season champion. In 1953, the MCHL became the Western Intercollegiate Hockey League (WIHL).
The Cup remained a part of the WIHL until the league was disbanded in March 1958. There was no league play for the 1958-59 season and for the 1959-60 season, the seven teams resumed competition under the new name of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
From the 1961-62 through the 1964-65 seasons, the Cup was awarded to the WCHA's playoff tournament champion instead of the regular season champion, but the WCHA resumed awarding the Cup to the regular season Champion again for the start of the 1965-66 season through the 1981-82 season.
Michigan Tech left the WCHA to join the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) for the 1981-82 season. Since Michigan Tech is the trustee of the Cup, the Cup went to the CCHA. The Broadmoor Trophy was created as a replacement and awarded to the regular season champion until Michigan Tech returned to the WCHA for the start of the 1984-85 season. The McNaughton Cup also returned and continues to be awarded to the regular season champion today. With the return of the MacNaughton Cup, the Broadmoor Trophy is awarded to the WCHA tournament champion.