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Gophers Sweep Seawolves, Welcome Sioux to Town This Weekend

Gophers Sweep Seawolves, Welcome Sioux to Town This Weekend

The Golden Gophers returned home from The Last Frontier on Sunday with four points thanks to a pair of victories over the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves, and now turn their attention to their biggest rival: the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, who make their first trip to Mariucci Arena this weekend since January of 2010.

Regardless of how good the Gophers may or may not end up being this season, it’s never an easy task to head to Anchorage and win both games. Between the travel , dismal atmosphere at the games, and UAA’s defensive-minded style of play, teams often struggled even if they – on paper – are a much better team than the Seawolves, so credit the Gophers for getting the job done.

They scored the first goal on both nights which is key against a low-scoring team like UAA. On Friday night, Kent Patterson recorded his fourth shutout of the season and the team scored a pair of power play goals. On Saturday, Zach Budish gave the Gophers a 1-0 lead midway through the first period, and then a pair of shorthanded goals by Nate Condon and Kyle Rau paved the way for a 3-1 victory.

Now, the Gophers will play their first WCHA homes games of the young season as they host the Fighting Sioux this weekend. As expected, the Sioux are off to a slow start, as they bring a 3-4-1 record with them to Minneapolis. Last year’s Sioux team was the best in the nation from start to finish but of course they were upset by Michigan in the Frozen Four semifinals. Gone are the likes of Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, Jason Gregoire, Brad Malone, and Brett Hextall up front, and from the backend, seniors Chay Genoway, Jake Marto, and Derrick LaPoint moved on as well.

Though it hasn’t been the case up to this point, the Sioux figured to rely on their backend to carry the way for them this season with so many young guys up front. Senior Ben Blood might be the best defenseman in the WCHA, while junior Andrew MacWilliam is as tough as they come. Sophomore Derek Forbort had a solid but unspectacular first year, but he figures to really make a jump this season with more icetime and power play time. Fellow sophomore Dillon Simpson was the youngest player in college hockey last season but, like Forbort, should emerge this season with more playing time.

In net, junior Aaron Dell was one of the best goalies in the WCHA last season after taking the starting gig away from now-senior Brad Eidsness. Both have saw time early this season but both have save percentages under 90 percent and goals against averages over 3.30. Now, the Sioux have had a pretty tough schedule so far: vs. Air Force, vs. Boston College, two games vs. Maine, two games at Wisconsin, and two games vs. St. Cloud State. But the fact is that their backend has yet to live up to the hype.

Up front, head coach Dave Hakstol has loaded up his top line with his three best forwards: junior Corban Knight centering sophomore Brock Nelson and junior Danny Kristo. Those three are the team’s top scorers, having combined for 12 goals; the rest of the team has scored ten. That line is going to get their chances this weekend, but the key is to not let them take over the game like they have the chance to do.

Past those three, no Sioux forward is off to a good start. Preseason Rookie of the Year Rocco Grimaldi has battled an injury this year and has played in just three games. Colton St. Clair, another highly-touted first year player, has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA and won’t play this season. Now, chances are that some of the young Sioux forwards who have underachieves so far will get going eventually, but it’s up to the Gophers to not let that happen this weekend.

The Sioux have scored just 2.75 goals per game on the season, while they have allowed 3.5. Their power play is clicking at 20.5 percent, which is solid but unspectacular. UND’s penalty kill is at 78.1, so again, just okay.

The bottomline is this for the Gophers: this is not a great Sioux team and this is a great chance for the Gophers to pay them back for all the beatdowns UND has handed them the last few seasons and prove that this team is for real despite their somewhat soft schedule up to this point.

Minnesota has three very solid lines right now. They are scoring 5.38 goals per game. Their power play is at 35.9 percent, which is unheard of. They’ve allowed just 1.75 goals per game. Their penalty kill is at 87.5 percent and they’ve scored a pair of shorthanded goals.

Minnesota’s depth up front might be their biggest edge this weekend. Erik Haula has an amazing 17 points in eight games. Freshman Kyle Rau is tied for the team-lead in goals with seven. Sophomore Nick Bjugstad has 12 points in eight games. Condon has four goals. Their depth right now is the best it’s been in years and hopefully that shines through this weekend and down the road.

One area where the Sioux have owned the Gophers over the years has been in the faceoff circle. Knight will be very tough to win draws against as he may be the best in the country at taking draws. But the Gophers cannot lose 60-70 percent of the draws like they have in so many games vs. UND over the last five years. With Haula, Bjugstad, and Taylor Matson up the middle, the team is better equipped to do just that than they were in the past.

In net, Kent Patterson is playing much better than either Dell or Eidsness right now but those two are both good goalies that should give the Sioux a chance both nights. UND has the clear edge on the blueline though we’ve seen in past years some of their bigger guys back there tend to struggle on the big ice against the fast Gopher forwards.

That may be the biggest challenge for UND: they cannot get into penalty trouble with the way Minnesota’s power play is going right now or it’s going to be a long weekend for the Sioux. Now, history would suggest that staying out of the box is going to be a tall task for North Dakota.

The two teams split in North Dakota last year but since the 2006-07 season, the Gophers are 5-11-3 against the Sioux. This presents a great chance to reverse that trend a little bit against a Sioux team that is down where as the Gophers are clearly on the way up at this point.

Friday’s game gets underway at 7 p.m. on FSN, while the Saturday rematch is on Big Ten Network at 7:30 p.m.

Written by: Cardinal on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Buzzer Beater!


Gophers’ Holl Scores with 0.6 Seconds Left to Propel Minnesota to National Championship Game

Philadelphia, PA – Just another classic moment in the Minnesota-North Dakota rivalry.

Whenever you say Minnesota-North Dakota, you know you're in for something special. These two teams have fought numerous battles over the years, with names like Broten and Wheeler etched in Gopher lore for the miracle-goals they’ve scored to beat North Dakota on a grand stage. Tonight, Minnesota fans will add Justin Holl’s name to that storied list, after his shorthanded goal with 0.6 secon...

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Gophers Beat Huskies 4-0 WHOOOOO


Minnesota Face North Dakota in Frozen Four

Saint Paul, Minn. – The Gophers hit a pothole last week in the Big Ten Tournament losing to Ohio State, but their ‘Fab Five’ seniors made sure they booked a spot in the Frozen Four with a 7-3 win over Robert Morris and a dominating 4-0 win over St. Cloud State in the West Regional.

“The focus this weekend was tremendous,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “On the bench, I don’t know if I’ve seen it this focused and communicated and dialed in as we were for the game tonight. Again, that is a credit to our captains and right on ...

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Gophers Survive, Advance Versus Robert Morris


Condon's Two Goals Pace Gophers Over Colonials

Minneapolis – “This time of year, nobody’s going to give up.”

Kyle Rau’s words rung true tonight, as Minnesota had to fight hard to beat a pesky Robert Morris squad. Although Minnesota won 7-3, the game was much closer than the score indicated, with Robert Morris coming back from a 4-goal deficit in the second period to close within two and make the game very interesting into the third period.

Minnesota came out like a house of fire, registering a 5-1 shot advantage just 90 seconds into the game. However, a couple of ...

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