Gophers could feast during holidays

Minnesota’s soft schedule could help the team earn some much needed wins.

by Max Sanders

As the semester comes to a close and students go home for the holidays, letâÄôs take a look at the upcoming slate of winter games for the Gophers menâÄôs hockey team. Michigan Tech: Dec. 11-12 First up for Minnesota is a trip to Michigan, where they will head to Houghton to face last-place Michigan Tech. The Huskies have just two wins this season and enter this weekend on a five-game losing streak. Michigan Tech (3-11-0 overall, 2-10 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) was swept last weekend by Wisconsin, who outscored the Huskies by a combined 14-2 in the series. A trip to Houghton may be just what the doctor ordered for Don LuciaâÄôs offensively challenged Gophers. Michigan Tech is last in the nation in goals allowed, surrendering 4.43 goals per game. The power play has been especially dreadful for the Huskies, as they have allowed man-advantage goals on 37 percent of chances, also worst in the country. Minnesota (6-9-1, 4-7-1) heads into the weekend on the heels of a Saturday win against Minnesota State-Mankato in which three Gophers scored their first goals of the season en route to the 6-2 win. This marks the only matchup between the two programs all season, and Minnesota will have a six-game home stand after the trip to Michigan. Dodge Holiday Classic: Jan. 2-3 Following a three week break, the Gophers will return to Mariucci Arena for the annual Dodge Holiday Classic. After missing last yearâÄôs tournament because of illness, Lucia is going to be back behind the bench for this yearâÄôs two-day affair and should have nearly his entire roster at his disposal. Last year Minnesota had three players gone to compete at the World Junior Championships. Only one player, sophomore Jordan Schroeder , will be going to Saskatchewan to compete for team U.S. this year. Lucia has said he expects Schroeder to be back in time for the Jan. 8 series against Harvard. Lucia also announced junior Jacob Cepis , whose injury has sidelined him all season, is slated to return for the Dodge Holiday Classic opener. In the opener, the Gophers will face Bowling Green, a member of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The Falcons, along with Western Michigan, are currently tied for last in the CCHA with 10 points. In the second game, Minnesota will face either Northern Michigan or Clarkson. Northern Michigan is tied with Notre Dame for fifth place in the CCHA, while Clarkson is currently tied for 10th place with Harvard in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference. While Minnesota has struggled out of the gate, their level of competition does drop off during the Dodge Holiday Classic. The GophersâÄô opponents during the Dodge Holiday Classic have a combined record of 12-28-8. Harvard: Jan. 8-9 Following a short week due to the Saturday-Sunday Dodge Holiday Classic schedule, Minnesota will host the Crimson in a Friday-Saturday nonconference showdown five days later. Harvard is 10th in the ECAC, with an overall record of 1-7-2. Sophomore Alex Killorn leads the Crimson on the offensive end with a team-high five goals. Defensively, Harvard employs a two-goalie platoon, with Kyle Richter seeing a majority of the playing time, starting seven games. The junior currently has a goals against average of 3.67, with a save percentage of .898. North Dakota: Jan. 15-16 As they started the first half, Minnesota will open the second half of the regular season against North Dakota. The Gophers will be hoping for a different result than in October, when they were handed a loss and tie in Grand Forks. The Sioux are the first of seven conference series to end the year, and Minnesota will need to get off to a good start against North Dakota if they hope to begin the climb back into contention in the WCHA. A prolific squad on both sides of the ice, the offensive end features a team that already has eight players with at least 10 points for the Sioux. The defensive end features goalie Brad Eidsness , who is third in the conference with a goals against average of 1.97. North Dakota currently sits sixth in the WCHA standings with 13 points, four ahead of Minnesota.