Gophers Dive Back Into WCHA Play Up In Alaska vs. Seawolves
The Golden Gophers will look to remain unbeaten in WCHA play this weekend as they travel to The Last Frontier to take on the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves on Friday and Saturday.
Minnesota, of course, is coming off a disappointing home split against Vermont last weekend. Friday night was a dominating effort by the Maroon and Gold, as Kent Patterson pitched his third-straight home shutout en route to a 6-0 win. The Gophers outshot the Catamounts by a 38-17 margin and the game was never really in doubt.
Sunday was a different story however, as the Gophers allowed four second period goals to Vermont in a 5-4 loss. Vermont had seven power plays on Sunday after going 0-6 with the man-advantage on Friday night, and they scored twice with said chances in the Sunday rematch.
The Gophers took some foolish penalties on Sunday, as Vermont was much more into the game than they were on Friday night. Combine that with some lapses by the team’s young defensive core, and the end result was the team’s first loss of the young season.
But there were several positives to take away from last weekend. They scored ten goals so the offense is still rolling along at an amazing clip. Sophomore center Erik Haula continues to pile up the points, as he now has 14 of them on the season in just six games. Linemate Jake Hansen has 11, while freshman wing Kyle Rau has a team-leading six goals.
Now, the Gophers turn their attention so the Seawolves, who are unbeaten in the state of Alaska this season but are coming off a pair of losses in Omaha against the Mavericks. Prior to the losses in Omaha, the Seawolves tied Clarkson and had wins against St. Cloud State, Nebraska Omaha, and Mercyhurst, with all of those games coming in a pair of tournaments in Alaska.
As is always the case, the Gophers are going to have a tough time getting a pair of wins this weekend despite the fact they are the better team. The trip to Alaska is never easy for even the best teams, so Minnesota will have to play a very solid 60 minutes on both nights if they hope to come away with four points.
Sometimes motivation can be an issue for teams when they play the Seawolves, since they clearly don’t have the same history as a North Dakota or a Wisconsin. However, that shouldn’t be the case this weekend for the Gophers, as it was the Seawolves who embarrassed the team last March when they came into Mariucci Arena and ended Minnesota’s season via a pair of wins that prevented the Gophers from reaching the Final Five and the NCAA Tournament.
Hopefully the boys have that in the back of their minds this weekend and can get a small measure of payback for how last season ended.
The Seawolves are in the middle of the pack in terms of how WCHA teams are fairing versus all other teams this season. They scoring offense is 7th, scoring defense is 5th, power play is 8th, and penalty kill is 6th. Leading scorer Mickey Spencer, a junior, has five goals on the season and is tied with Daniel Naslund for the team lead in points with seven. Spencer is the only player with two or more goals, so per usual, the Seawolves don’t appear to be a team that is well-equipped to win a high-scoring game.
In net, sophomores Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal have played three games apiece so far this season, with both having very similar numbers. Kamal has a slightly better save percentage, while Gunderson has a better goals against. One would assume the rotation would continue this weekend depending of course upon how Friday night’s game goes. For what it’s worth, Kamal was in net both nights last March at Mariucci.
Unlike Minnesota’s other WCHA series, which was in Duluth against the Bulldogs, this series likely will be played much closer to the vest and feature less up-and-down, racehorse type hockey. The Seawolves are typically an older, bigger team that likes to play a more grinding style, so the Gophers will have to be patient and hopefully use the power play to get some scoring. It would be surprising if the Seawolves put up more than three goals on either night, so if the Gophers can put up four or more goals – which they’ve done every game so far this season – you’d think they’d have a nice shot at getting some wins.
Per usual, neither game is on television this weekend, but stay tuned to GPL’s homepage for a link to a video stream (that will likely work poorly) from Anchorage. Plus GPL will, as always, have a live chat going during the game which should be pretty lively given the lack of television. Both games will air live on AM 1500 as well.
Free Video Stream: HERE.