Gophers Return to WCHA Play Against Last Place UAA Seawolves
It feels like a long time since the Gophers took the ice against a WCHA opponent. That most recent game, a 4-4 overtime tie in Colorado Springs against the CC Tigers, took place more than a month ago on December 9th. The Gophers are hoping a new year means better luck in the conference, where Minnesota sits in sixth place at 6-3-3.
It could be argued that the Gophers (14-3-3 overall) are a different team now than they were a month ago. Minnesota is riding a three game winning streak coming out of the break, which includes victories over then #1 Boston College and then #2 Notre Dame. The Gophers are playing with a swagger that many predicted they'd have before the start of the year. Minnesota is currently the #3 offense in the country posting a robust 3.65 goals per game, and they're also the #4 defense in the land, averaging 1.8 goals allowed. However, within the WCHA Minnesota has struggled, averaging only 3.0 GPG while giving up 2.5. The team needs to get healthy in the conference and start racking up points.
There's no better team to get healthy against than the University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves. The Seawolves are last in the conference with just five points (3-11-4 overall, 1-10-3 WCHA). UAA is on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to virtually any statistic you care to look at: third to last in the country at 1.94 goals scored per game, T-46 of 59 teams in total defense at 3.06 goals allowed per game, 54th in powerplay at 10.17%, 47th on the penalty kill at 79%. This should be a team that Minnesota handles easily. But not so fast. In their most recent meeting the two teams skated to a 2-2 overtime tie.
UAA is a team that likes to clog up the middle and play defense-first hockey. If the Seawolves can limit the Gophers' chances they have enough offense to strike once or twice on the counter-attack and make a game out of it. Hopefully Minnesota hasn't been looking past this Seawolf team to next weekend's set against the University of North Dakota.
One other note: the Gophers' leading scorer Erik Haula is still out with a wrist injury. He hopes to return against North Dakota.
The puck drops at 8PM on Friday night on the Big Ten Network, while Saturday is the usual 7PM faceoff on Fox Sports North.