Before I get started with the pre-game report, apologies for not producing a live blog of last night’s 3-2 Gophers win. Technical difficulties effecting the site prevented me from doing any live blogging. Those issues appear to have been corrected so barring another setback tonight’s game will be blogged live as usual.
For those that missed it, last night’s game featured a controversial referee play, a nifty back-and-forth score and ultimately a 3-2 Gophers win. A more thorough re-cap of last night’s game can be found in Monday’s print paper and online, because tonight all eyes are focused on the showdown just 52 minutes away.
Minnesota with the win is riding a three-game win streak; tied for its longest conference win streak of the season. The win further tightens the race for the No. 5 conference spot. Denver, Wisconsin and St. Cloud State have all clinched a home series for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference tournament. What that leaves is four teams battling for the final two home ice spots. Right now Minnesota-Duluth has the No. 4 spot with 29 points but Scott Sandelin’s team has no breathing room. Chasing the Bulldogs is an on-fire North Dakota team that eeked out a one-goal overtime victory last night in Colorado College.
What’s at stake for Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth:
For the Bulldogs: Despite all the talk about "what-if’s" and "if this, than that’s", it’s actually all quite simple. If Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota both win tonight, all five home ice spots are sealed. It would just become a question of seeding.
For Minnesota: If Don Lucia’s squad can pull out a win tonight, they would remain right in the thick of a home ice spot. However, Gophers fans will have to begin rooting for outside help, as a Colorado College win tonight would go far in helping Minnesota earn a top five spot. If the Tigers and Gophers both win, Minnesota would sit one point back of both North Dakota and Colorado College heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Gophers Offensive First Line:
Left Wing-Jacob Cepis
Right Wing-Zach Budish
Minnesota-Duluth Offensive First Line:
Left Wing-Travis Oleksuk
Right Wing-Justin Fontaine
Gophers Defensive First Line:
Left Wing-Nick Leddy
Right Wing-David Fischer
Minnesota-Duluth Defensive First Line:
Don Lucia has made one slight adjustment, swapping Jake Hansen and Josh Birkholz. Hansen will be moved up to the right win of the third line, while Birkholz is on the left wing of the fourth line.