Colorado College comes to Mariucci in battle for second

Chris Lempesis

Mariucci Arena, home of Minnesota’s men’s hockey team, is well-known across college hockey as a frightening place for visiting teams.

Since the start of the 2000-2001 season (including playoffs), Gophers’ opponents have come out on the losing end more than 70 percent of the time.

Minnesota’s upcoming opponent, Colorado College, has not been so unlucky. During the same time span, the Tigers have posted a winning mark of 4-3-1 against the Gophers at Mariucci, including a two-game sweep last January.

Minnesota hopes to change that record this weekend as it hosts Colorado College for a two-game Western Collegiate Hockey Association set at Mariucci. Game times are set for 7:07 p.m. Friday, and 3:07 p.m. Saturday.

“(Colorado College) kicked our rear ends last year,” coach Don Lucia said. “They beat us four out of five (overall last year).”

Changing their fortunes will not be an easy task for the fourth-ranked Gophers (14-6-4, 9-5-2 WCHA). The seventh-ranked Tigers (17-8-1, 9-6-1) return almost their entire roster from last season, including the lethal combination of senior forwards Marty Sertich and Brett Sterling.

Sertich, who Lucia said “might be the smartest player in all of college hockey,” was last year’s Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner. This season, he has 11 goals and 24 assists for 35 points.

Sterling has 22 goals and 16 assists for 38 points (fifth in the nation) and is considered one of the front-runners for this year’s Hobey Baker.

Stopping ” or at least containing ” these two will be crucial for Minnesota. It will be, in the words of sophomore defenseman Derek Peltier, “a great challenge.”

“Our goal is, every weekend, to stop the other team’s top (players) from scoring against us,” Peltier said. “So this will be a great test for our D-core.”

The Gophers are well aware, though, that Colorado College is far from a two-horse team and that too much focus on Sertich and Sterling could be very harmful. The Tigers have quite a few other players, such as junior defenseman Brian Salcido (6-23-29), who can also do damage.

With all this offensive talent on the ice ” Minnesota has more than its fair share of goal scorers, as well ” the games should be high-scoring affairs. Senior forward and team captain Gino Guyer said there’s a good chance the scores could be in the 4-3 or 5-4 range.

But, 4-3, 5-4, or whatever the final score, the Gophers just hope it’s in their favor so they can begin to change their luck against the Tigers at home at this crucial point in the season.

“(Colorado College is) a team, certainly, with Wisconsin kind of running away with the league, that we’re going to be contending with in a spot in the standings,” Lucia said. “So, that’s why this weekend’s important.”